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“Scoff, if you will, Gentlemen, but this woman will live!” 



S lowly, and with the fierce conviction 
and undying faith that had marked 
him from the beginning, Lister, his scalpel 
laid aside, the last dressing completed, 
addressed his critical audience. 

In the eyes of one or two he saw hope and 
faith to buttress his own, but on the faces of 
others — some of them the leaders of the pro- 
fession — he read only doubt and disbelief. 

He could almost hear the sneers of the 
attending nurses whispering in the back- 
ground while they viewed the pale and love- 
ly woman on the table. Lister knew that they 
regarded his fanatical insistence on cleanli- 
ness, the repeated dressings, his evil antisep- 
tics, as the vagaries of a madman . . . that 
they were awaiting the "dead-cart” to carry 
the woman away, just as it had carried away 
countless others, when blood poisoning fol- 
lowed compound fracture. 

But Lister knew, also, that his radical 
methods, his antiseptics aimed to keep 
germs out of wounds, before, during and 



after every operation, must, with God’s will, 
triumph. 

And triumph they did . . . the woman 
lived ! 

So, patient by patient, case by case, day 
by day, Lister piled up evidence in support 
of his antiseptic theory which was to rid the 
world of untold suffering, and reduce the 
hideous fatalities that time and time again 
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tions. 

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A 




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AST— IS 






ASTOUNDING 

SCIENCE FICTION 

Ret. II. S. rat OR. 

CONTENTS 

DECEMBER, 1944 VOL. XXXIV, NO. 4 

SERIAL 

NOMAD, by Wesley Long 7 

Three Parte — Part Orte 

NOVELETTES 

THE FIRING LINE, by (ieorge 0. Smith ... 60 

NO WOMAN BORN, by C. L. Moore 134 

SHORT STORY 

TRICKY TONNAGE, by Malcolm Jameson . . . fifi 

ARTICLES 

SPACESHIP’S VIEW 00 

MOON MYSTERIES, by Willy Ley 104 

READERS’ DEPARTMENTS 

THE EDITOR’S PAGE 5 

IN TIMES TO COME 08 

THE ANALYTICAL LABORATORY .... OS 
PROBABILITY ZERO 128 



Editor 

JOHN W. CAMPBELL, JR. 



COVER BY TIMMINS 
Illustrations by Kramer and Orban 




Tbe editorial content! hare not been published before, are protected ny 
copyright and cannot be reprinted without publisher’s permission. All stories 
in this magazine are fiction. No actual persons are designated by name .r 
character. Any similarity Is coincidental. 

Monthly publication issued by 8tre<*t & Smith Publications. Incorporate, 
122 East 42nd Street, New York 17, N. Y. Allen L. Oraramer, President; 
Gerald H. Smith, Vice President and Treasurer; Henry W. Ralston, Vice 
President and Secretary. Copyright, 1944, la U. S. A. and Great Britain 
by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Reentered as Second-class Matter. 
February 7, 1938, at the Post Office at New York, under Act of Congress 
of March 3, 1879. Subscriptions to Countries In Pan American Onion. 
$2.75 per year; elsewhere, $3.25 per year. We cannot accept responsibility 
for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. Auy material submitted must include 
return postage. 

$2.5Q per Year In 0. S. A. Printed in «^3gj£fc»i9a the U. S. A. 25c par Copy 



NEXT ISSUE ON SALE DECEMBER 10. 1044 



Robots and Planes 



The robot part of the robot bomb 
is, of course, a low-grade idiot 
among robots. Incidentally, it vio- 
lates, seriatim, all three. of Asimov’s 
“Three Laws of Robotics” — it will 
injure humans ; it destroys itself ; 
and it is much too erratic to allow 
anyone to say honestly that it obeys 
orders given it. 

Yet, curiously, the public in gen- 
eral is becoming aware of the fact 
that robots ’are not silly dreams of 
a fantastic future but, in this in- 
stance, horrible nightmares of right 
now, through the medium of this 
sub-idiotic contraption among ro- 
bots. The Flying Fortress, even 
more the new Super Fortress, are 
robots — and infinitely more intelli- 
gent robots — which, it happens, nor- 
mally carry pilots and crew with 
them. It has been proven time and 
again, however, that the Flying 
Fortress, or the Liberator — which, 
of course, carries the same type of 
robotic brain — can fly perfectly 
without any help from its human 
crew. Most of the time they do; 
during the most critical moment of 
the whole mission, the bombing run 
itself, they are under the control 
of the robot bombsight mechanism. 

ROBOTS AND PLANES 



The bombardier’s job is to carefully 
point out to the robot “There — hit 
that one!” and the robot, not the 
bombardier, does the job. 

There are lots of robots in every 
day use, however, which, because 
they don’t have clanking arms and 
legs, nor tin-plate heads with painted 
eyes, aren’t recognized as such. 
Everything from telephone switch- 
boards — particularly the crossbar 
type — to differential integrators. 

But the robot bomb, actually, is 
new only in minor degree — techno- 
logically, it is not an invention, but 
an improvement and adaptation. 
It’s a Whitehead torpedo with modi- 
fications for air-borne use. As the 
Whitehead torpedo is a miniature 
submarine carrying a warhead, the 
robot bomb is a miniature plane 
similarly burdened. Both are gyro 
controlled. Both must, to be at all 
effective, attain speeds comparable 
to the highest speeds possible to 
other mechanisms operating in their 
respective media. Each, at its first 
introduction, has been enormously 
dangerous, requiring the develop- 
ment of new countermeasures. 

The Nazi’s torpedoes have been 
rendered harmless, incidentally, in 

6 



precisely the . same way the robot 
bomb was stopped — by destroying 
or capturing the launching mecha- 
nisms. Nobody tried to destroy the 
torpedoes particularly — they went 
after the subs that launched them. 
The air torpedo is more vulnerable, 
and its launching platform consider- 
ably less so. However, the rocket 
bomb probably won’t be a particu- 
larly dangerous weapon — nowhere 
near as dangerous, for instance, as a 
fighter-bomber. The robot’s great 
trouble, whether piloting a bomb or 
in any other application, is that it 
can not correct its errors, handle 
emergencies, nor display inherent 
intelligence. (They can, and do, of 
course, display secondhand intelli- 
gence — the intelligence the designer 
built into them.) Essentially, that 
means simply that a robot can’t 
duck. It can’t, as a human pilot 
can, zig when it’s expected to zag. 

Characteristically, the most ad- 
vanced types of robots include spe- 
cial devices that call for human help 
when something goes wrong — they 
don’t yet think their own way out 
of emergencies. 

So long as the robot bomb can’t 
duck, a combination of improved 
antiaircraft fire control and special, 
super-speed fighters can take care 
of them. The standard fighter plane 
is designed to be able to maneuver, 
to be able to zig just as fast and 
just as tight as the zig of the enemy 
pilot, and to zag every time he does. 
You sacrifice a lot of speed that way 
—but you need it against a human 
pilot. You don’t, with a robot pi- 
lot. And, since a human-piloted 
machine can be expected to return 

« 



intact, a lot more expensive, more 
powerful, and better parts can be 
used in it. 

The robot bomb idea, converted to 
peacetime use, would give us a com- 
pletely robot air freight system. The 
present use of the flying robot sim- 
ply allows it to crash-land — but the 
blind-landing systems developed 
before the war, to permit safe land- 
ing when fog closed in on the 
airports, nearly all depended on hav- 
ing the pilot bring the plane into the 
neighborhood of the field, where a 
radio signal picked up and started a 
robot-landing pilot. It was easier 
to design a robot to directly inter- 
pret and act on the radio signals 
than to design instruments for a pi- 
lot to read, convince him he could 
trust them, and train them to act 
on them. Simple enough to add 
that robot to the present systems. 

And you know, they will almost 
certainly do that. Fog and weather 
won’t hold terrors. Every plane 
will take off under robot control, fly 
under radio-robot control, and land 
under radio-robot control. Every 
plane on every commercial air line. 

With two men to watch the robot. 
Men can replace a tube if it blows. 
They can make adequate adjustment 
for an engine that burns out. No 
robot yet devised can do all the 
things that might be needed in all 
the emergencies that could arise — 
and it will be a heck of a long time 
before they do contrive one that will 
do that, and still weigh less than one 
hundred fifty pounds, and cost less 
than ten thousand dollars a year for 
all maintenance. 

The Editor. 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



Nomad 

by WESLEY LONG 




Pari 1 of 3 parts. Long's first serial tells of a man 
harried from world to world, kidnaped, betrayed — 
for a purpose he never knew, but faithfully fulfilled! 



illustrated by Orban 



i. 

Guy Maynard left the Bureau of 
Exploration Building at Sahara 
Base and walked right into trou- 
ble. It came more or less of a 
surprise; not the trouble as a con- 
dition but the manner and place of 
its coming was the shocking quality. 
Guy Maynard was used to trouble 
but like all men who hold commis- 
sions in the Terran Space Patrol, 



he was used to trouble in the proper 
places and in the proper doses. 

But to find trouble in the mid- 
dle of Sahara Base was definitely 
stunning. Sahara Base was as re- 
stricted an area as had ever been 
guarded and yet trouble bad come 
for Guy. 

The trouble was a MacMillan 
held in the clawlike hand of a Mar- 
tian. The bad business end was 
dead-center for the pit of Guy’s 



NOMAD 



7 



stomach and the steadiness of the 
weapon’s aim indicated that the 
Martian who held the opposite end 
of the ugly weapon knew his Mac- 
Millans. 

Maynard’s stomach crawled, not 
because of the aim on said midriff, 
but at the idea of a MacMillan be- 
ing aimed at any portion of the 
anatomy. His mind raced through 
several possibilities as he recalled 
previous mental theories on what 
he would do if and when such a 
thing happened. 

In his mind’s eye, Guy Maynard 
had met MacMillan-holding Mar- 
tians before and in that mental 
playlet, Guy had gone into swift 
action using his physical prowess 
to best the weapon-holding enemy. 
In all of his thoughts, Guy had 
succeeded in erasing the menace 
though at one time it ended in death 
to the enemy and at other times 
Guy had used the enemy’s own 
weapon to march him swiftly to the 
Intelligence Bureau for question- 
ing. The latter always resulted in 
the uncovering of some malignant 
plot for which Maynard received 
plaudits, decorations, and an in- 
crease in rank. 

Now Guy Maynard was. no 
youngster. He was twenty-four, 
and well educated. He had seen 
action before this and had come 
through the Martio-Terran incident 
unscathed. Openly he admitted 
that he had been lucky during those 
weeks of trouble but in his own 
mind, Maynard secretly believed 
that it was his ability and his brain 
that brought him through without 
a scratch. 

t 



His dreaming of action above 
and beyond the call of duty was 
normal for any young man of in- 
telligence and imagination. 

But as his mind raced on and 
on, it also came to the conclusion 
that the law of survival was higher 
than the desire to die for a theory. 

Therefore it was with inward 
sickness that Guy Maynard stopped 
short on the sidewalk before the 
Bureau of Exploration Building 
and did nothing. He did not look 
around because the fact that this 
Martian was able to stand before 
him in Sahara Base with a Mac- 
Millan pointed at his stomach was 
evidence enough that they were 
alone on the street. Had anyone 
seen them, the Martian would have 
been literally torn to bits by the 
semi-permanent MacMillan mounts 
that lined the roof tops. 

The Martian had everything his 
own way, and so Maynard waited. 
It was the Martian’s move. 

“Guy Maynard?” 

Maynard did not feel that such 
an unnecessary question required 
an answer. The Martian would not 
have been menacing him if he 
hadn’t known whom he wanted. 

“Guy Maynard, I advise that you 
do nothing.” said the Martian. His 
voice was flat and metallic like all 
Martian voices, and the sharply- 
chiseled features were expression- 
less as are all Martian faces. “You 
are to come with me,” finished the 
Martian needlessly. He had not 
concluded the last bit of informa- 
tion when invisible tractor beams 
lashed down and caught the pair in 



ASTOCNBINfi SCIENCK. fie T I n v 



their field of focus and lifted them 
straight up. 

The velocity was terrific, and the 
only thing that saved them suffo- 
cation in the extreme upper strato- 
sphere was the entrapped air that 
went along with the field of focus. 

The sky went dark and the stars 
winked in the same sky as the flam- 
ing sun. 

And then they entered the space 
lock of an almost invisible space- 
ship. The door slammed behind 
them and air rushed into the con- 
fines of the lock just as the trac- 
tors were snuffed. 

Maynard arose from the floor to 
face once more that rigidly held 
MacMillan. Before he could move, 
the door behind him flashed open 
and three Martians swarmed in 
upon him and trussed him with 
straps. They carried him to a small 
room and strapped him to a sur- 
geon’s table. 

The one with the MacMillan 
holstered the weapon as the ship 
started off at 3-G. 

“Now, Guy Maynard, we may 
talk.” 

Maynard glared. 

“It is regrettable that this should 
be necessary,” apologized the Mar- 
tian. “I am Kregon. Your being 
restrained is but a physical neces- 
sity ; I happen to know that you 
are the match for any two of us. 
Therefore wc have strapped you 
down until we have had a chance 
to speak our mind. After which 
you may be freed — depending upon 
vour reception of the proposition we 
have to offer.” 

Maynard merely waited. It was 



very unsatisfactory, this glaring, 
for the Martian went on as though 
Maynard were beaming in glee and 
anxiously awaiting for the “Propo- 
sition.” He recalled training 
which indicated that the first thing 
to do when confronted by captors 
is to remain silent at all cost. To 
merely admit that your name was 
correctly expressed by the captor 
was to break the ice. Once the 
verbal ice was broken, the more 
leading information was easier to 
extract; a dead and stony silence 
was hard to break. 

“Guy Maynard, we would like to 
know where the Orionad is,” said 
Kregon. “We have here fifty 
thousand reasons why you should 
tell. Fifty thousand, silver-backed 
reasons, legal for trade in any part 
of the inhabited Solar System and 
possibly some not-inhabited places.” 

No answer. 

“You know where the Orionad 
is,” went on Kregon. “You are 
the aide to Space Marshal Greggor 
of the Bureau of Exploration who 
sent the Orionad off on her present 
mission. The orders were secret, 
that we know. We want to know 
those orders.” 

No answer. 

“We of Mars feel that the 
Orionad may be operating against 
the best interests of Mars. Your 
continued silence is enhancing that 
belief. Could it be that we have 
captured the first prisoner in a new 
Terra-Martian fracas? Or if the 
Orionad is not operating against 
Mars, I can see no reason for con- 
tinued silence on your part.” 



c 



NOMAD 



No answer, though Maynard 
knew that the Orionad was not 
menacing anything Martian. He 
realized the trap they were laying 
tor him and since he could not 
avoid it, he walked into it. 

Kregon paused. Then he started 
off on a new track. “You are prob- 
ably immunized against iso-dinila- 
mine. Most officials are, and their 
aides are also, especially the aide 
to such an important official as 
Space Marshal Greggor. That is 
too bad, Guy Maynard. Terra is 
still behind the times. Haven’t they 
heard that the immunization given 
by anti-lamine is good except when 
anti-lamine is decomposed by a low 
voltage, low frequency electric cur- 
rent ? They must know that,” said 
Kregon with as close to a smile as 
any Martian could get. It was also 
cynically inclined. “After all, it 
was Dr. Frederich of the Terran 
Medical Corps who discovered it.” 

Maynard knew what was coming 
and he wanted desperately to squirm 
and wriggle enough to scratch his 
spine. The little beads of sweat 
that had come along his backbone 
at Kregon’s cool explanation were 
beginning to itch. But he con- 
trolled the impulse. 

“We are not given to torture,” 
explained the Martian. “Otherwise 
we could devise something defi- 
nitely tongue-loosening. For in- 
stance, we could have you observe 
some surgical experiments on — say 
— Laura Greggor.” 

The beads of sweat broke out 
over Maynard’s face. It was a 
harsh thought and very close to 
home. And yet there was a sepa- 

19 



rate section of his mind that told 
him that Laura would undergo that 
treatment without talking and that 
he would have to suffer mentally 
while he watched, because she 
would hold nothing but contempt 
for a man who would talk to save 
her from what she would go through 
herself. He wondered whether 
they had Laura Greggor already 
and were going to do as they said. 
That was a hard thing to reason 
out. He feared that he would 
speak freely to save Laura disfig- 
urement and torture; knowing as 
he spoke that Laura would forever 
afterward hate him for being a 
weakling. Did they have her — ? 

“Unfortunately for us, we have 
not had the opportunity of getting 
the daughter of the Space Marshal. 
But there are other things. They 
are far superior, too. I was against 
the torture method just described 
because I know that Mars would 
never have peace again if we de- 
stroyed the daughter of Space Mar- 
shal Greggor. Your disappearance 
will be explained by evidence. A 
wrecked spaceship or flier, will take 
care of the question of Guy May- 
nard, whereas Laura Greggor is 
forbidden to travel in military ve- 
hicles.” 

Kregon turned and called 
through the open door. His con- 
federates came with a portable cart 
upon which was an equipment case, 
complete with plug-in cords, elec- 
trodes, and controls. 

“You will find that low frequency, 
low voltage electricity is very ex- 
cruciating. It will not kill nor 
maim nor impair. But it will offer 



ASTOUND! NO SCIENCE-FICTION 



you an insight on the torture of 
the damned. Ultimately, we will 
have decomposed the anti-lamine in 
your system and then you will 
speak freely under the influence of 
iso-dinilamine. Oh yes, Guy May- 
nard, we will give you respite. The 
current will be turned off periodi- 
cally. Five minutes on and five 
minutes off. This is in order for 
you to rest." 

" — to rest!” said Maynard’s 
mind. Irony. For the mind would 
count the seconds during the five 
free minutes, awaiting with horror 
the next period of current. And 
during the five minutes of electrical 
horror, the mind would be counting 
the seconds that remain before the 
period of quiet, knowing that the 
peaceful period only preceded more 
torture. 

Kregon’s helpers tied electrodes 
to feet, hands, and the back of his 
head. Then Kregon approached 
with a syringe and with an apolo- 
getic gesture slid the needle into 
Maynard’s arm and discharged the 
hypodermic. 

“Now,” he asked, “before we 
start this painful process, would 
you care to do this the easy way? 
After all, Maynard, we. are going 
to have the answer anyway. For 
your own sake, why not give it 
without pain. That offer of fifty 
thousand solars will be withdrawn 
upon the instant that the switch is 
closed." 

Maynard glared and broke his si- 
lence. “And have to go through it 
anyway? Just so that you will be 
certain that I’m not lying? No!” 

Kregon shook his head. “That 



• 

possibility hadn’t really occurred to 
us. You aren’t that kind of man, 
Maynard. I think that the best kind 
of individual is the man who knows 
when to tell a lie and when not to 
tell. Too bad that you will never 
have the opportunity of trying that 
philosophy, but I think it best for 
the individual, though often not 
best for society in general. Accept 
the apology of a warrior, Guy May- 
nard, that this is necessary, and 
try to understand that if the cases 
were reversed, you would be in my 
place and I in yours. I salute you 
and say good-by with regrets.” 
Maynard strained against the 
straps in futility. He felt that 
sense of failure overwhelm him 
again, and he fought against his 
fate in spite of the fact that there 
was nothing he could do about it. 
Another man would have resigned 
himself, realizing futility when it 
presented itself, and possibly would 
have made some sort of prayer. 
But Guy Maynard fought — 

And the surge of low frequency, 
low voltage electricity raced into 
his body, removing everything but 
the torture of jerking muscle and 
the pain of twitching nerves. It 
was terrible torture. He felt that 
he could count each reversal of the 
low frequency, and yet he could do 
nothing of his own free will. The 
clock upon the wall danced before 
his jerking eyeballs so that he could 
not see the hands no matter how 
hard he tried. Ironically, it was a 
Martian clock and not calibrated 
into Terran time; it would have had 
no bearing on the five-minute peri- 
ods of sheer hell. 



XO.M A » 



11 



Ben Williamson raced across the 
sand of Sahara Base, raising a 
curling cloud of dust behind him. 
The little command car rocketed 
and careened as Williamson ap- 
proached his destroyer, and then 
the long, curling cloud of dust 
took on the appearance of a huge 
exclamation point as the brakes 
locked and the command car slid 
to a stop beside the space lock. 
Williamson leaped from the com- 
mand car and inside with three 
long strides. 

He caught the auxiliary switch on 
his way past, and the space lock 
whirred shut. “Executive to pilot,” 
he yelled. “Take her up at six.” 

The floor surged, throwing Wil- 
liamson to his knees. Defiantly, 
Ben crawled to the executive’s chair 
atid rolled into the padded, body- 
supporting seat. He lay there for 
some seconds, breathing heavily. 
Then from the communicator there 
came the query : 

“Pilot to executive: Received. 

What’s doing?” 

“Executive to crew : Martian of 
the Mardinex class snatched Guy 
Maynard on a tractor. We’re to 
pursue and destroy.” 

“Golly !” breathed the pilot. 
“Maynard !” 

“That’s right,” said Williamson. 
“They grabbed him right in front 
of the BuEx and that’s that.” 

“But to destroy them — ?” 

“We’re running under TSI or- 
ders. you know,” reminded Wil- 
liamson. 

“Yeah, I know. But killing off 
one of our own people doesn’t 
sound good to me. Makes me feel 

n 



like a murderer.” 

“I know,” said Ben. “But re- 
member, Maynard was grabbed by 
a Martian. Being an aide to Greg- 
gor, he was filled to the eyebrows 
with anti-lamine. That means the 
electro-treatment for. him, plus a 
good shot of iso-dinilamine. All 
we’re doing is giving peace to a 
man who is suffering the tortures 
of hell. After all, would any of 
you care to go on living after that 
combination was finished?” 

“No, I guess not. Must be 
worse than death not to have a 
mind.” 

“What’s worse is what happens. 
You haven’t a mind — and yet you 
have enough mind to realize that 
fact. Strange psychological tangle, 
but there it is. Tough as it is, 
we’ve got to go through with it." 

“They’re after some information 
on the Oriomd?” 

“Probably. That’s why we’re 
taking out after them. It’s the only 
reason why Guv Maynard was cov- 
ered under the TSI order.” 

“Too bad,” said the pilot. 

“It is,” agreed Williamson. 
“But — prepare for action. Check 
all ordnance.” 

It was almost an hour later that 
the communicator buzzed again. 
“Observer to executive: Martian 

of Mardinex class spotted.” 
“Certain identification ?” 

“Only from the cardex file. 
Can’t see her yet, but the spotters 
have picked up a ship having the 
characteristics of the Mardinex 
class. It’s the Mardinex herself, 
Ben, because she’s the only one 
left in that class. Old tub, not 

A S T O r N r> I X 0 SCIENCE - FICTION 






much good for anything except a 
fool's errand like this.” 
“Turretman to executive: Have 
we got a chance, tackling a first- 
line ship like the Mardinex in a 
destroyer ?” 

“Only one chance. They prob- 
ably didn’t staff it too well. On an 
abortive attempt like this, they’d 
put only those men they could af- 
ford to lose aboard. Probably a 
skeleton crew. Also the knowledge 
that detection meant extermination, 
therefore go fast and light and as 
frugal as possible on crewmen. 
That’s our one chance.” 

“One more chance,” interrupted 
the technician. “We have the drive 
pattern of the Mardinex in the 
cardex. . We can bollix their drive. 
That’s one more item in our favor.” 
“Right,” said Ben. “What’s our 
velocity with respect to theirs?” 
"Forty miles per second.” 

“Tim, launch two torpedoes im- 
mediately. Pete, continue course 
above Mardinex and cross their 
apex at two hundred miles. Tim, 
as we cross their apex, drop a case 
of interferers. Once that is done, 
Pete, drop back and give Tim a 
chance to say hello with the Auto- 
Macs.” 

“Giving them the whole thing at 
once ?” 

“Yes. And one thing more, 
Jimmy ?” 

“Technician to executive,” an- 
swered Jimmy. “Pm here.” 

“Can you rig your drive-pattern 
interferer ?” 

“In about a minute. I’ve been 
setting up the constants from the 
cardex file.” 



“And hoping they’ve not been 
changed?” asked Ben with a smile. 
“Right.” 

The little destroyer lurched im- 
perceptibly as the torpedoes were 
launched, and then continued on its 
course a hundred miles to the south 
of the Martian ship, passing quickly 
above the Mardinex and across the 
apex of the Martian’s nose. The 
turretman was busy for several sec- 
onds dropping his case of inter- 
ferers from the discharge lock. The 
little metal boxes spread out in space 
and began to emit signals. 

Then the destroyer dropped back, 
and from the turret there came the 
angry buzz of the AutoMacs. On 
the driving fin of the Mardinex ap- 
peared an incandescent spot that 
grew quickly and trailed a fine line 
of luminous gas behind it. Then 
the turrets of the Mardinex 
whipped around and Tim shouted : 
“Look out!” 

His shout was not soon enough. 
On the turret of the Martian ship 
there appeared two spots of light 
that were just above the threshold 
of vision against the black sky. The 
destroyer bucked dangerously, and 
the acceleration fell sharply. 

“Hulled us.” 

On the pilot’s panel there ap- 
peared a number of winking pilot 
lights. “We’ll get along,” said he, 
studying the lights and interpreting 
their warning. 

“Got him!” said the turretman. 
The top turret of the Mardinex 
erupted in a flare of white flame 
blown outward by the air inside of 
the ship. 



N O MAD 



IS 



“Can we catch him for another 
shot?’’ asked Ben pleadingly. 

“Not a chance,” answered Pete. 
“We’re out of this fight.” 

“No, we’re not,” said Ben. 
“Look !” 

Before the Mardinex there began 
to erupt a myriad of tiny, wink- 
ing spots. The meteor spotting 
equipment and projectile intercept- 
ing equipment were flashing the in- 
terferers one after the other with 
huge bolts from the secondary bat- 
tery of the Mardinex. 

Ben counted the flashes and then 
asked the technician: “How many 
spotters has the Mardinex?” 

“Thirty.” 

“Good. The torps have-a chance 
then.” The non-radiating torpedoes 
would be ignored by the spotting 
equipment since the emission of the 
i nter ferers made them appear gi- 
gantic and dangerously close to the 
nonthinking equipment. The tor- 
pedoes, on the other hand, would 
be approaching the Mardinex from 
below and slowly enough to be con- 
sidered not dangerous to the inte- 
grating equpiment. If they arrived 
before the spotting circuits de- 
stroyed the entire case of inter- 
ferers — 

The lower dome of the Mardinex 
suddenly sported a jagged hole. 
And almost immediately there was 
a flash of explosive inside of the 
lower portion of the Martian ship. 
The lower observation dome split 
like a cracked egg, and the glass 
shattered and flew out. Portholes 
blew out in long streamers of fire 
around the lower third of the Mar- 
dinex and a series of shattering 

14 



cracks started up the flank of the 
ship. 

“There goes number two — a 
clean miss,” swore Ben. 

“Number one did a fine job.” 

“I know but — ” 

“This’ll polish 'em off.” came 
Jimmy’s voice. “Here goes the 
drive scrambler." 

“Hey! No — !” started Ben, but 
the whining of the generators and 
the dimming of the lights told him 
he was too late. 

The Mardinex staggered and 
then leaped forward until six full 
gravities. Bits of broken hull and 
fractured insides trailed out behind 
the Mardinex as the derelict's added 
acceleration tore them loose. 
Within seconds, the stricken Mar- 
tian warship was out of the sight 
of the Terrans. 

“No reprimand, Jimmy,” said 
Ben Williamson soberly. “1 did 
hope to recover Guy’s body.” 

II. 

Thomakein, the Ertinian, stopped 
the recorder as the Ter ran ship 
reversed itself painfully and began 
to decelerate for the trip back to 
home. He nodded to himself and 
made a verbal addition to the re- 
cording, stating that the smaller 
ship had been satisfied as to the 
destruction of the larger, otherwise 
a continuance of the fight would 
have been inevitable. Then Thoma- 
kein placed the recording in a can 
and placed it on a shelf containing 
other recordings. He forgot about 
it_ then, for there was something 
more interesting in view. 

ASTOUNDING SCIFJNf'H-FTCTION 



That derelict warship would be 
a veritable mine of information 
about the culture of this system. 
All warships are gold mines of in- 
formation concerning the technical 
abilities, the culture, the beliefs, and 
the people themselves. 

Could he assume the destruction 
of the crew in the derelict? 

The smaller ship had — unless they 
were out of the battle and forced 
to withdraw due to lack of fight- 
ing contact. That didn’t seem 
right to Thomakein. For the 
smaller ship to attack the larger 
ship meant a dogged determination. 
There would have been a last-try 
stand on the part of the smaller 
ship no matter how much faster 
the larger ship were. At worst, 
the determination seemed to indi- 
cate that ramming the larger ship 
was not out of order. 

But the smaller ship had not 
rammed the larger. Hadn’t even 
tried. In fact, the smaller ship had 
turned and started to decelerate as 
soon as the larger ship had doubled 
her speed. 

Thomakein couldn’t read either 
of the name plates of the two fight- 
ing ships. He had no idea as to 
the origin of the two. As an 
Ertinian, Thomakein couldn’t even 
recognize the characters let alone 
read them. Fie was forced to go 
once more on deduction. 

The course of the larger vessel. 
It was obviously fleeing from the 
smaller ship. Thomakein played 
with his computer for a bit and 
came to two possibilities, one of 
which was remote, the other point- 
ing to the fourth planet. 



A carefully collected table of 
masses and other physical con- 
stants of the planets of Sol was 
consulted. 

Thomakein retrieved his record- 
ing, set it up and added: 

“The smaller ship, noticing the 
increased acceleration of the larger, 
assumed — probably — that the larger 
ship’s crew was killed by the in- 
creased gravity-apparent. Since 
the larger ship was fleeing, it would 
in all probability have used every 
bit of acceleration that the crew 
could stand. Its course was dead- 
center for the fourth planet’s posi- 
tion if integrated for a course based 
on the larger ship’s velocity and 
direction and acceleration at and 
prior to the engagement. 

“This fourth planet has a sur- 
face gravity of approximately one- 
eighth of the acceleration of the 
larger ship. Doubling this means 
that the crew must withstand six- 
teen gravities. The chances of any 
being of intelligent size withstand- 
ing sixteen gravities is of course 
depending upon an infinite number 
of factors. However, the prob- 
able reasoning of the smaller ship 
is that sixteen gravities will kill the 
crew of the larger ship. Other- 
wise they would have continued to 
try to do battle with the larger ship. 
Their return indicates that they 
were satisfied.” 

Thomakein nodded again, re- 
placed the recording, apd then paced 
the derelict Mardine x for a full 
hour with every constant at his 
disposal on the recorders. 

At the end of that hour, Thoma- 
kein noted that nothing had reg- 



NOMA n 



1 * 



istered and he smiled with assur- 
ance. 

He stretched and said to himself : 
“I can stand under four gravities. 
I can live under twelve with the 
standard Ertinian acceleration garb. 
1 hit sixteen gravities for one hour ? 
Never.” 

Thomakein noted the acceleration 
of the derelict as being slightly over 
six gravities on his own accelerom- 
eter. which registered the Ertinian 
constant. 

Then he began to maneuver his 
little ship toward the derelict. 

Entering the Mardincx through 
the blasted observation dome was no 
great problem. The lower meteor 
spotters and most of the machinery 
had gone with the dome and so no 
pressor came forth to keep Thoma- 
kein from his intention. 

The insides were a mess'. Broken 
girders and ruined equipment made 
a bad tangle of the lower third of 
the great warship. Thomakein 
jockeyed the little ship back and 
forth inside of the derelict until he 




had lodged it against the remainder 
of a lower deck in such a manner 
as to keep it there under the six 
Terran gravities of acceleration. 
Then he donned spacesuit and 
started to prowl the ship. It was 
painful and heavy going, but 
Thomakein made it slowly. 

An hour later, Thomakein heard 
the ringing of alarms, coming from 
somewhere up above, and the sound 
made him stop suddenly. Sound, 
he reasoned, requires air for propa- 
gation. The sound came through 
the floor, but somewhere there must 
be air inside of the derelict. 

So upward he went through the 
damage. He found an air-tight 
door and fought the catch until it 
puffed open, nearly throwing him 
back into the damaged opening. 
White-faced, Thomakein held on 
until his breath returned, and then 
with a determined look at the gap 
below — and the place where he 
would have been if he had fallen 
out of the derelict — Thomakein 
tried the door again. He closed 
the outer door and tried the inner. 

Elis alien grasp of mechanics was 
not universal enough to discover his 
trouble immediately. But it was 
logical, and logic told him to look 
for the air vent. He found it, and 
turned the valve permitting air to 
enter the air-tight door system. The 
inner door opened easily and 
Thomakein entered a portion of the 
hull where the alarm bells rang 
loud and clear. 

He found them ringing in a room 
filled with control instruments. 
Throwing the dome of his suit back 



ASTOUND INC! SCIKNCTl FICTION 



over his head, Thomakein looked 
around him with interest. There 
was nothing in the room that logic 
or a grasp of elementary mechanics 
could solve. It did Thomakein no 
good to look at the Martian char- 
acters that labeled the instruments 
and dials, for he recognized noth- 
ing of any part of the Solar System. 

He did recognize the bloody lump 
of inert flesh as having once been 
the operator of this room — or one 
of them he came to conclude as his 
search found others. 

Thomakein was not squeamish. 
But they did litter up the place and 
the pools of blood made the floor 
slippery which was dangerous under 
6-G Ter ran — or for Thomakein, 
five point six eight. So Thomakein 
struggled with the Martian bodies 
and hauled them to the corridor 
where he let them drop over the 
edge of the central well onto the 
bulkhead below. He returned to 
the instrument room in an attempt 
to find out what the bell-ringing 
could mean. 

He inspected the celestial globe 
with some interest until he noticed 
that the upper limb contained some 
minute, luminous spheres — prolate 
spheroids to be exact. Wondering, 
Thomakein tried to look forward 
and up with respect to the ship’s 
course. 

His anxiety increased. He was 
about to meet a whole battle fleet 
that was spread out in a dragnet 
pattern. Then before he could 
worry about it he was through the 
network and some of the ships tried 
to follow but with no success. The 
Mar dine x bucked and pitched as 

XOM AD 



tractors were applied and subse- 
quently broken as the tension 
reached overload values. 

Thomakein smiled. Their in- 
ability to catch him plus their ob- 
vious willingness to let the matter 
drop with but a perfunctory try 
gave him sufficient evidence as to 
their origin. 

They could never catch a ship 
under six gravities when the best 
they could do was three. The func- 
tions with respect to one another 
would be as though the faster ship 
were accelerating away from the 
slower ship by 3-G plus the initial 
velocity of the faster ship’s intrin- 
sic speed, for the pursuers were 
standing still. 

The Mardinex swept out past 
Mars and Thomakein smiled more 
and more. This maze of equipment 
was better than anything that he 
had expected. The Ertinians would 
really get the information as to the 
kind of people inhabited this sys- 
tem. 

Thomakein wandered idly from 
room to room, finding dead Mar- 
tians and dropping them onto the 
bulkhead. Two he saved for the 
surgeons of Ertene to inspect ; they 
were in fair physical condition com- 
pared to the rest but they were no 
less dead from acceleration pres- 
sure. 

Eventually, Thomakein came to 
the room wherein Guy Maynard 
was lying strapped to the surgeon’s 
table. The Ertinian opened the 
door and walked idly in, looking the 
room over quickly to see which 

i7 



item of interest was the most com- 
pelling. 

His glance fell upon Maynard 
and passed onward to the equip- 
ment on the cart beyond the Ter- 
rain Then Thomakein's eyes 
snapped back to the unconscious 
Terran and Thomakein’s jaw fell 
while his face took on an astonished 
look. 

Thomakein often remarked after- 
wards that it was a shame that no 
one of his photographically inclined 
friends had been present. He’d 
have enjoyed a picture of himself 
at that moment and he realized the 
fact. 

Thomakein had ignored the dead 
Martians. They were different 
enough to permit him a certain 
amount of callousness. 

But the man strapped to the ta- 
ble, and hooked up to the diabolical 
looking machine was the image of 
an Ertinian ! Thomakein didn’t 

know what the machine was for, 
but his logical mind told him that 
if. this man, different from the rest, 
were strapped to a table with some 
sort of electronic equipment tied to 
his hands, feet, and head, it was 
sufficient evidence that this was a 
captive and the machine some sort 
of torture. He stepped forward 
and jerked the electrodes from 
Maynard’s inert frame and pushed 
the machine backward onto the floor 
with a foot. 

A quick check told Thomakein 
that the unknown man was not 
dead, though nearly so. 

He raced through the derelict to 
his own ship and returned with a 



stimulant. The man remained un- 
conscious but alive. His eyes 
opened after a long time, but be- 
hind them was no sign of intelli- 
gence. They merely stared fool- 
ishly, and closed for long periods. 

Thomakein tended the man as 
best he could with the limited sup- 
plies from his own ship and then 
began to plan his return to Ertene 
with his find. 

Days passed, and Thomakein un- 
willingly abandoned any hope of 
having this man give him any in- 
formation. The man was as one 
dead. He could not speak, nor 
could he understand anything. 
Thomakein decided that the best 
thing to do was to take the unknown 
man to Ertene with him. Perhaps 
Charalas, or one of his contempo- 
rary neuro-surgeons could bring 
this man to himself. Thomakein 
diagnosed the illness as some sort 
of nerve shock though he knew 
that he was no man of medicine. 

Yet the surgeons of Ertene were 
brilliant, and if they could bring 
this unknown man to himself, they 
would have a gold mine indeed. 

So at the proper time, Thomakein 
took off from the derelict with the 
mindless Guy Maynard. By now, 
the derelict was far beyond the last 
outpost of the Solar System and 
obviously beyond detection. Thoma- 
kein installed a repeater-circuit de- 
tector in the wrecked ship ; it would 
enable him to find the Mardinex at 
some later time. 

So unknowing, Guy Maynard 
came to Ertene. 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



The first thing that reached 
across the mental gap to Guy May- 
nard was music. Faint, elfin music 
that seemed to sway and soothe the 
ragged edges of his mind. It came 
and it went depending on how he 
felt. 

But gradually the music increased 
in strength and power, and the 
lapses were shorter. Warm pleas- 
ant light assailed him now and gave 
him a feeling of bodily well-being. 
Flashes of clear thinking found 
him considering the satisfied condi- 
tion of his body, and the fear and 
nerve-racking torture of the Mar- 
tian method of extracting infornia- 
tion dropped deeper and deeper 
into the region of forgetfulness. 

Then he realized, one day, that 
he was being fed. It made him 
ashamed to be fed at his age, but 
the thought was fleeting and gone 
before he could clutch at it and 
consider why he should be ashamed. 
One portion of his mind cursed the 
fleetingness of such thoughts and 
recognized the possibilities that 
might lie in the sheer contemplation 
of self. 

There were periods in which 
someone spoke to him in a strange 
tongue. It was a throaty voice; a 
woman. Maynard’s inquisitive sec- 
tion tried the problem of what was 
a woman and why it should stir the 
rest of him and came to the meager 
conclusion that it was standard for 
this body to be stirred by woman; 
especially women with throaty 
voices. The tongue was alien; he 
could understand none of it. But 
the tones were soothing and pleas- 
antj and they seemed to imply that 



he should try to understand their 
meaning. 

And then the wonder of meaning 
came before that alert part of May- 
nard’s mind. What is meaning? it 
asked. Must things have meaning? 
It decided that meaning must have 
some place in the body’s existence. 
It reasoned thus : There is light. 

Then what is the meaning of light? 
Must light have a meaning? It 
must have some importance. Then 
if light has importance and mean- 
ing, so must all things ! 

Even self ! 

So the voices strived to teach 
Ertinian to the Terran while he 
was still in the mindless state, and 
gradually he came to think in terms 
of this alien tongue. But he had 
been taught to think in Terran, and 
the Terran words came to mind 
slowly but surely. 

And then came the day when Guy 
Maynard realized that he was Guy 
Maynard, and that he had been 
saved, somehow, from the terrors 
of the Martian inquisition. He saw 
the alien tongue for what it was 
and wondered about it. 

Where was he? 

Why? 

The days wore on with Maynard 
growing stronger mentally. They 
gave him everything they could, 
these Ertinians. Scrolls were given 
to him to read, and the movement 
of reflections from his eyeballs mo- 
tivated recording equipment that 
spoke the word he was scanning 
into his ear in that pleasant throaty 
voice. It was lightning-fast train- 
ing, but it worked, once Guy’s men- 
tality went to work as an entity. 



NOMAD 



19 



Maynard learned to read Ertiuian 
printing and lastly the simplified 
cursory writing. 

Then with handwriting at the 
gate of learning, they placed his 
hand around a controlled pencil, 
and the voice spoke as the controlled 
pencil wrote. They spoke Ertinian 
to him, not knowing Terran, though 
his earlier replies were recorded. 

And as he strengthened, his re- 
plies made sense, and for every Er- 
tiniau word impressed upon his 
mind, he gave them the Terran 
word. They taught him composition 
and grammar as he taught them, 
and whether it was by the written 
script or the spoken word, the in- 
terchange of knowledge was com- 
plete. 

One day he asked: “Where am 
I?” 

And the doctor replied : “You are 
on Ertene.” 

“That I know. But where or 
what is Ertene?” 

“Ertene is a wandering planet. 
We found you almost dead in a 
derelict spaceship and brought you 
back to life.” 

“I recall parts of that. But — 
Ertene ?” 

“Generations ago, Ertene left her 
parent sun because of a great, im- 
pending cataclysm. Since then we 
have been wandering in space in 
search of a suitable home.” 

“Sol is not far away — you will 
find a home there.” 

The doctor smiled sagely and did 
not comment on that. Maynard 
wondered about it briefly and tried 
to explain, but they would have 
none of it. 



He tried at later times, but there 
was a reticence about their accept- 
ing Sol. as a home sun. No matter 
what attack he tried, there was a 
casual reference to a decision to 
be made in the future. 

But their lessons continued, and 
Guy progressed from the hospital to 
the spacious grounds. He sought 
the libraries and read quite a bit, 
for they urged him to, saying: 
“We can not entertain you con- 
tinually. You are trot strong enough 
to work, nor will we permit you 
to take any position. Therefore 
your best bet is to continue learn- 
ing. In fact, Guy, you have a job 
to perform on Ertene. You are 
to become well versed in Ertinian 
lore so that you may converse with 
us freely and draw comparisons 
between Ertene and your Terra for 
us. Therefore apply yourself.” 

Guy agreed that if he could do 
nothing else, he could at least do 
their bidding. 

So he applied himself. He read. 
He spoke at length with those about 
him. He practised with the writing 
machine. He accepted their cus- 
toms with the air of one who feels 
that he must, in order that he be 
accepted. 

And gradually he took on the 
manner of an Ertinian. He spoke 
with a pure Ertinian accent, he 
thought in Ertinian terms, and his 
hand was the handwriting of an 
Ertinian. t And from his studies he 
came to the next question. 

“Charalas, how could you tell me 
from an Ertinian?” 

Charalas smiled. “We can.” 



20 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-DICTION 



‘‘But how? It is not apparent.” 
‘‘Not to you. It is one of those 
things that you miss because you 
are too close to it. It is like your 
adage: ‘Cannot see the forest for 
the trees.’ It will come out.” 
‘‘Come out?” 

“Grow out,” smiled the neuro- 
surgeon. “Your . . . beard. You 
notice that I used the Terran name. 
That is because we have no com- 
parable term in Ertinian. That is 
because no Ertinian ever grew hair 
on his face. Daily, you . . . shave 
. . . with an edged tool we fur- 
nished you upon your request. You 
were robotlike in those days, Guy. 
You performed certain duties in- 
stinctively and the lack of . . . shav- 
ing equipment . . . caused you no 
end of mental concern. Thomakein 
studied your books and had a . . . 
razor . . . fashioned for you.” 
“Whiskers. I never noticed 
that.” 

“No, it is one of those things. 
Save for that, Guy, you could lose 
yourself among us. The . . . mus- 
tache . . . you wear marks you on 
Ertene as an alien.” 

“I could shave that off.” 

“No. Do not. It is a mark of 
distinction. Everyone on Ertene 
has seen your picture with it and 
therefore you will be accorded the 
deference we show an alien when 
people see it. Otherwise you would 
be expected to behave as we do in 
all things.” 

“That I can do.” 

“We know that. But there is 
another reason for our request. One 
day you will know about it. It 
has to do with our decision con- 



cerning alliance with Sol’s family.” 
Guy considered. “Soon?” 

“It will be some time.” 

Again that unwillingness to dis- 
cuss the future. Guy thought it 
over and decided that this was some- 
thing beyond him. He, too, let the 
matter drop for the present and 
took a new subject. 

“Charalas, this sun of yours. It 
is not a true sun.” 

“No,” laughed Charalas. “It is 
not.” 

“Nor is it anything like a true 
sun. Matter is stable stuff only 
under certain limits. If that size 
were truly solar matter, it would 
necessarily be so dense that space 
would be warped in around it so 
tight that nothing could emerge — 
radiation, I mean. To the observer, 
it would not exist. That is axio- 
matic. If a bit of solar matter of 
that size were isolated, it would 
merely expand and cool in a mat- 
ter of hours — if it were solar-core 
matter it would probably be cur- 
tains for anything that tried to live 
in the neighborhood. Matter of 
that size is stable only at reason- 
able temperatures. I don’t know 
the limits, but I’d guess that three 
or four thousand degrees kelvin 
would be tops. Oh, I forgot the 
opposite end ; the very high tem- 
perature white dwarf might be that 
size — but it would warp space as 
1 said before and thus do no good. 
Therefore a true sun of that size 
and mass is impossible. 

“Another thing, Charalas. We 
are close to Sol. A light-week or 
less. That would have been seen 
. . . should have been seen by our 

31 



xow An 



observatories. Why haven't they 
seen it?” 

“Our shield,” explained Charalas, 
“explains both. You see, Guy, in 
order that a planet may wander 
space, some means of solar effect 
must be maintained. As you say, 
nothing practical can be found in 
nature. Our planet drive is poorly 
controlled. We can not maneuver 
Ertene as you would a spaceship. 
It requires great power to even shift 
the course of Ertene by so much as 
a few degrees. We’ve taken luck 
as a course through the galaxy and 
have visited only those stars that 
have lain along our course. Trying 
to swing anything of solar mass 
vvould be impossible. Ertene would 
merely leave the sun ; the sun would 
not answer Ertene’s gravitational 
pull. 

“But this is trivial. Obviously 
we have no real sun. But we 
needed one.” Charalas smiled shyly. 
“At this point 1 must sound brag- 
gart,” he said, “but it was an an- 
cestor of mine — Timalas — who 
brought Ertene her sun.” 

“Great sounding guy,” com- 
mented the Terran. 

“He was. Ertene left the parent 
sun with only the light-shield. The 
light-shield, Guy, is a screen of 
energy that permits radiation to 
pass inwardly but not outwardly. 
Thus we collect the radiation of all 
the stars and lose but a minute 
quantity of the input from losses. 
That kept Ertene warm during 
those first years of our wandering. 

“It also presented Ertene with a 
serious problem. The entire sky 

22 



was faintly luminous. It was 
neither night nor day at any place 
on Ertene, but a half-light all the 
time. Disconcerting and entirely 
alien to the human animal. Evo- 
lutionary strains might have ap- 
peared to accept this strange con- 
dition, but Timalas decided that 
Intis, the lesser moon, would serve 
as a sun. He converted the screen 
slightly, distorting it so that the 
focal point for incoming radiation 
was at Intis. The lesser moon be- 
came incandescent, eventually, and 
serves a.s Ertene’s sun. It is syn- 
thetic. The other radiations that 
prove useful to growing things and 
to man but which are not visible 
are emitted right from the inner 
surface of the light-shield itself. 
Intis serves as the source of light 
and most of the heat. It is a 
natural effect, giving us beautiful 
sunrises and peaceful sunsets. The 
radiation that causes growth and 
healthful effects is ever-present, be- 
cause of the screen. Some heat, 
too, for that is included in the bene- 
ficial radiation. But the visible 
spectrum is directed at Intis along 
with a great quantity of the heat 
rays. Intis is small, Guy, and it is 
also beneficial that the re-radiation 
from Intis that misses Ertene and 
falls on the screen is converted also. 
Much of Ertene’s power is derived 
from the screen itself — a back-en- 
ergy collected from the screen gen- 
erator.” 

“So the effective sun is the re- 
sult of an energy shield ? And this 
same shield prevents any radiation 
from leaving this region. I can 
see why we haven’t seen Ertene. 

ASTOUNDING SOT K NOE FICTION 



You can’t see something that doesn’t 
radiate. But what about occulta- 
tion ?” 

“Quite possible. But the size of 
the screen is such that it is of 
stellar size as seen from stellar dis- 
tances. It is but a true point in 
space.” Charalas smiled. “I was 
about to say a point-source of light 
similar to a star but the shield is 
a point-source of no-light, really. 
Occultation is possible but the prob- 
abilities are remote, plus the prob- 
ability of a repeat, so that the ob- 
server would consider the brief 
occultation of the star anything but 
an accident to his photographic 
plate.” 

“Don’t get you on that.” 

“It’s easy, Guy. Take a star- 
photograph and lay a thin line 
across it and see how many stars 
are really covered by this line — 
which is of the thickness of the stars 
themselves. Too few for a non- 
suspecting observer to tie together 
into a theo$. No, we are safe 
from detection.” 

“Detection ?” 

“Yes. Call it that. Suppose we 
were to pass through a malignant 
culture. We did, three generations 
ago and it was only our shield that 
saved us from being absorbed into 
that system. We would have been 
slaves to that civilization.” 

“I see.” 

“Do you?” 

“Certainly,” said Guy. “You in- 
tend to have me present the Solar 
Government to your leaders. Upon 
my tale will rest your decision. You 
will decide whether to join us — or 
to pass undetected.” 



“I believe you understand," said 
Charalas. “So study well and be 
prepared to draw the most discern- 
ing comparisons, for the Council 
will ask the most delicate questions 
and you should be able to discuss 
any phase of Ertene’s social, sys- 
tem and the corresponding Terran 
system.” 

Mentally, Guy bade good-by to 
Sol. He applied himself to his Er- 
tinian lessons because he felt that 
if Sol were lost to him — as it might 
be — he could at least enter the Er- 
tinian life as an Ertinian. 

III. 

Guy Maynard, the Terran, be- 
came steeped in Ertinian lore. He 
went at it with the same intensity 
that he went at anything else, and 
possibly driven with the heart-chill- 
ing thought that he might not be 
able to convince Ertene that Sol 
had a place for her. He saw that 
possibility, and prayed against it, 
yet he realized that Ertene was a 
planet of her own mind and that 
they might decide against alliance. 
It was a selling job he had to do. 

And if not — 

Guy Maynard would have to re- 
main on Ertene. Therefore in either 
case it would serve him best to 
become as Ertinian as possible. He 
did not believe that they would 
exile him — that would be danger- 
ous. Nor did he believe that death 
would accompany his failure to con- 
vince Ertene of their place around 
Sol. The obvious course in case 
of failure would be to permit him 
the freedom of the planet; to be- 



NOMAD 



23 



come in effect, an Ertinian. 

He’d be under watch, of course. 
Escape would prove dangerous for 
their integrity. Imprisonment was 
not impossible, but he hoped that 
his failure to convince would not 
be so sorry as to have them suspect 
him. 

Of course, an opportunity to es- 
cape would be taken, unless he gave 
his word of honor. Yet, he had 
sworn the oath of an officer in 
Terra’s space fleet, and that oath 
compelled him to serve Terra in 
spite of danger, death, or dishonor 
to self. He must not give his pa- 
role — 

Guy fought himself over that 
problem for days and days. It led 
him in circular thinking, the outlet 
to which would be evident only 
when he found out the Ertinian re- 
action. Too much depended on that 
trend;- there were too many ifs 
standing between him and any plan 
for the future. 

He forgot his mental whirl in 
study. He investigated Ertinian 
science and tucked a number of 
items away in his memory. He 
visited the observatory and after a 
number of visits he plotted Ertene 
in the celestial sphere within a few 
hundred thousand miles. That, too, 
he filed away in his memory along 
with the course of the wanderer. 

He learned that his place of con- 
valescence was no hospital, but 
Thomakein’s estate. It staggered 
him. Thomakein was — must be — 
a veritable dynamo of energetic 
mentality to have the variety of in- 
terests as reflected in the trappings 
about the estate. The huge library, 

24 



the observatory, the laboratories. 
How many of the things he saw and 
studied were Thomakein’s personal 
property he would never know ; 
though he did know that some of 
them came from museums and in- 
stitutes across the planet. 

He wondered about Thomakein. 
He had never seen his saviour 
since his mind had come back. He 
recalled vague things, but nothing 
cogent. He asked Charalas about 
Thomakein. 

“Thomakein’s main problem is 
Sol,” explained Charalas. “A prob- 
lem which you have made easy for 
him. However, he is on the dere- 
lict, studying the findings there. A 
\yarship is a most interesting mu- 
seum of the present, you know. 
Often things of less than perfect 
operation are there ; things that will 
eventually become perfected and es- 
tablished into private use. It is 
almost a museum of the future. 
Thomakein will learn much there 
and he has been commissioned to 
remain on the derelict until he has 
catalogued every item on it.” 

“Lone life, isn't it?” asked Guy. 

“He has friends. Last I heard 
from him, he had sealed the usable 
portion of the derelict against the 
void, and was turning the course to 
bring it toward Ertene. Eventually 
the wreck will circle Ertene. Per- 
haps we may attempt to land it 
here.” 

“It’ll be a nice museum piece,” 
said Guy, “but it will not endear 
you to those of Mars.” 

“I know. Of course if we ac- 
cept Sol’s offer, we will destroy it 
completely.” 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



“Keep ft," said Guy, shrugging 
his shoulders. “Ertene will find 
little in common with Mars. It will 
he Terra and Ertene; together we 
will form the nucleus of Solar 
power.” 

“So?” 

“Naturally. Ertene and Terra 
are the most alike, even to the flora 
and fauna.” 

“I see.” 

Charalas let the matter drop as 
he did before. Guy tried to open 
the line of thought again, but met 
with no success. It was not a mat- 
ter of indifference to Guy’s argu- 
ments, but more a complete disin- 
clination to make any sort of state- 
ment prior to the decision of the 
Council of Ertene. Realizing that 
this decision was one of the single- 
try variety, Guy studied hard dur- 
ing the next few days. There 
would be no appeal even though he 
tried to get another hearing during 
the rest of his life. 

He wondered how soon it would 
be. 

Charalas landed on Thomakein’s 
estate in a small flier and asked Guy 
if he would like to see the famous 
Hall of History. They flew a 
quarter of the way around the 
planet, and during the trip, Charalas 
pointed out scenes of interest. It 
was enlightening to Guy, who hadn’t 
seen anything beyond a few miles 
of Thomakein’s estate. There were 
farms laid out on the production- 
line scale while the cities and towns 
that housed the farmers were 
sprawling, rustic villages of simple 
beauty. The larger cities had 



evolved from the square-block and 
rubber-stamp home kind to special- 
ized aggregations in which the cen- 
tral, business sections were close- 
knit while the residences were wide- 
spread and well apart, giving each 
family adequate breathing room. 

“The railroad,” smiled Charalas, 
“is still with us. It will never leave, 
because shipments of heavy machin- 
ery of low necessity can be trans- 
ported cheaper that way. Like the 
barges that ply the rivers with coal, 
ore. and grain, they are powered 
with adaptations of the space drive, 
but they are none the less barges 
or trains.” 

“They’ve found that, too.” 
laughed Guy. “There is little eco- 
nomic value in trying to ship a 
million tons of coal by flier.” 

“Normally, you should say. The 
slowest conveyor system is rapid if 
the conveyor is always filled and 
the material is not perishable. Coal 
and ore have been here for eons. 
Therefore it is no hardship to wait 
for six weeks while a given ton of 
ore gets across the continent, pro- 
vided that the user can remove a 
ton of ore from the conveying sys- 
tem simultaneously with the place- 
ment of another ton that will not 
get there for six weeks.” 

“Sounds correct, though I’ve 
never thought of it in that man- 
ner,” said Guy thoughtfully. “But 
that must be why it is done. We 
hull ore across space untended, and 
in pre-calculated orbits, picking it 
up at Terra from Pluto, for in- 
stance. The driverless and crew- 
less hull is packed with ore, towed 
into space by a space tug and set 



NOMAD 



25 



into its orbit, the tug then returning 
to the shipping area to await the 
next hull. The hull may take a 
couple of years to get to Terra, but 
when it does, it begins to emit a 
finder-signal and Terran space tugs 
pick the hull up and lower it to 
Terra. The hulls are returned with 
unperishable supplies to the Pluto- 
nian miners.” 

“We hadn’t the necessity of ap- 
plying that thought to space ship- 
ping,” answered Charalas. “Tonis, 
the larger moon, is so close that 
special shipping methods are not 
needed. We have but a few colo- 
nists there, most of which are mem- 
bers ofthe laboratory staff.” 

“You’ve found moon laboratories 
essential in space work, too?” asked 
Guy. 

“Naturally. Tonis is airless and 
upon it is the Ertinian astronomical 
laboratory.” 

% “Moons — even sterile moons — are 
good' for that.” said Guy. “They — 
Say, Charalas, what is that collec- 
tion of buildings below here ? They 
look like something extra-special.” 

“They are. That is the place 
we’re going to see.” 

Charalas put the flier into a steep 
dive and landed in the open space 
between the buildings. They en- 
tered the long, low building at the 
end opposite the most ornate build- 
ing of the seven that surrounded 
the landing area and Charalas told 
the receptionist that they were ex- 
pected. 

The long hall was excellently illu- 
minated, and on either side of the 
corridor were murals ; great twelve- 

26 



foot panels of rare color and of 
photographic detail. Upon close ex- 
amination they proved to be paint- 
ings. 

The first panel showed an impres- 
sion of the formation of Ertene, 
along with the other eleven planets 
of Ertene’s parent sun. It was 
colorful, and impressionistic in char- 
acter rather than an attempt to 
portray the actual cataclysm that 
formed the planets. The next few 
panels were of geologic interest, 
giving the impressions of Ertene 
through the long, geologic periods. 
There were dinosaur-picturizations 
next, and the panels brought them 
forward in irregular steps through 
the carboniferous; through the gla- 
cial ages ; through the dawn ages ; 
and finally into the coming of man 
to power. 

The next fourteen panels were 
used in the rise of man on Ertene 
from the early ages to full, efficient 
civilization. They were similar to 
a possible attempt to portray a sim- 
ilar period on Terra, showing wars, 
life in the cities of power during 
the community-power ages, and the 
fall of several powerful cities. 

Then the rise of widespread gov- 
ernment came with its more closely- 
knit society made possible by better 
means of communication and trans- 
portation. This went on and on 
until the facility of the combining 
factors made separate governments 
on Ertene untenable, and there were 
seven great, fiery panels of mighty, 
widespread wars. 

“Up to here, it is similar to ours,” 
commented Guy. 

“And here it changes,” said 

AST Ol) NO I NO SCIBNCE-FTCTTOX 



Charalas. “For the next panels show 
the impending doom of Ertene’s 
parent sun. The problem of space 
had been conquered but the other 
planets were of little interest to 
Ertene. We fought about four in- 
terplanetary wars as you see here, 
all against alien races. Then came 
trouble. The odd chance of a run- 
away star coming near Ertene did 
happen, and we faced the decision of 
living near an unstable sun for cen- 
turies, for our astronomers calcu- 
lated that the two stars would pass 
close enough to cause upheavals in 
the suns that would result in in- 
stability for thousands, perhaps mil- 
lions of years.” 

“Instability might not have been 
so bad,” said Guy thoughtfully, “if 
it could be predicted. No, I'm not 
speaking in riddles,” he laughed. 
“I may sound peculiar, saying that 
it would be possible to predict in- 
stability. But a regular variable of 
the cepheid type is predictable in- 
stability.” 

“True. But we had no basis for 
prediction. After all, it would have 
been taking a chance. Suppose that 
the instability had caused a nova? 
Epitaphs are nice but none the less 
final. We left hundreds of years 
before the solar proximity. Now 
we know that we might have sur- 
vived, but as you know, we can not 
swerve Ertene’s course readily and 
though we are slowly turning, the 
race may have died out and gone 
for a galactic eon before we could 
return. Once the race dies out — 
or the interest in returning to a 
certain sun hack there in the depths 
of the galaxy dies — we will cease 




ar 



NOMAD 



to turn. We may fine a haven some- 
where, before then.” 

‘‘You were speaking of years,” 
said Guy. “Was that a loose ref- 
erence or were you approximating 
my conception of a year?” 

“A year is a loose term indeed, 
no matter by whom it is used,” said 
Charalas. ‘‘To you, it is three hun- 
dred and sixty-five, and about a 
quarter, days. A day is one revo- 
lution of Terra. From Mars, say, 
a Terran year is something else en- 
tirely. Mars, of course, is not too 
good an example for its sidereal 
day is very close to Terra’s. But 
your Venus, with its eighteen hour 
day — eighteen Terran hours — sees 
Terra’s year as four hundred eighty- 
six, plus, days. On Ertene, we have 
no year. We had one, once. It was 
composed of four hundred twelve 
point seven zero four two two nine 
three one days, sidereal. Now, our 
day is different, since the length of 
the solar day depends upon the pro- 
gression of the planet about its 
luminary. Our luminary behaves 
as a moon with a high ecliptic-angle 
as I have explained. No, Guy, I 
have been mentally converting my 
year to your year, by crude ap- 
proximation.” 

The next panel was an ornate 
painting of the Ertinian system, 
showing — out of scale for artistic 
purpose — the planets and sun, with 
Ertene drawing away in a long 
spiral. 

“For many years we pursued that 
spiral, withdrawing from the sun 
by slow degrees. Then we broke 
free.” Charalas indicated the panel 
which showed Ertene in the fore- 

36 



ground while the clustered system 
was far behind. 

They passed from panel to panel, 
all of which were interesting to 
Guy Maynard. There was a series 
of the first star contacted by Er- 
tene. It was a small system, cold 
and forbidding, or hot and equally 
forbidding. The outer planets were 
in the grip of frozen air, and the 
inner planets bubbled in molten- 
ness. “This system was too far out 
of line to turn. It was our first 
star, and we might have stayed in 
youthfulness. Now, we know bet- 
ter.” 

The next panel showed a dimly- 
lighted landscape; a portrayal of 
Ertene without its synthetic sun. 
The luminous sky was beautiful in 
a nocturnal sort of way; to Guy it 
was slightly nostalgic for some un- 
known reason, at any rate it was the 
soul of sadness, that landscape. 

Charalas shook his head and then 
smiled. He led Guy to the next 
panel, and there was a portrait of 
an elderly man, quite a bit older than 
Charalas though the neuro-surgeon 
was no young man. “Timalas,” 
said Charalas proudly. “He gave 
us the next panel.” 

The following panel was a sim- 
ilar scene to the dismal one, but 
now the same trees and buildings 
and hills and sky were illuminated 
by a sun. It was a cheerful, up- 
lifting scene compared to the soul- 
clouding darkness. 

Ertene was a small sphere en- 
circled by a band of peaceful black 
in a raving sky of fire and flame. 
Three planets fought in the death 



ASTOUNDING SOIBNCF.-FICTTON 



throes, using every conceivable 
weapon. Space was riven with 
blasting beams of energy and segre- 
gated into square areas by far-flung 
cutting planes. Raging energy con- 
sumed spots on each of the planets 
and the corners of the panel were 
tangled masses of broken machin- 
ery and burning wreckage, and the 
hapless images of trapped men. But 
Ertene passed through this holo- 
caust unseen because of Timalas’ 
light-shield. 

“He saved us that, too,” said 
Charalas reverently. “We could 
not have hoped to survive in this. 
Our science was not up to theirs, 
though the aid of a derelict or two 
gave us most of their science of 
war. I doubt that Terra herself 
could have survived. We passed 
unseen, though we worried for a 
hundred years lest they find us.” 

A race of spiders overran four 
of the planets of the next panel. 
They were unintelligent, there was 
a questioning air to the panel, as 
though posing the query as to how 
this race of spiders had crossed the 
void. And the picture of an Erti- 
nian dying because contact with one 
of the spiders indicated their rea- 
son for not remaining. 

The next panel showed a whole 
system with ammoniated atmos- 
phere. “It was before the last 
panel,” said Charalas, “that Ertene 
became of age as far as the wander- 
lust went. We knew that we could 
survive. We wanted no system 
wherein Ertene would be alone. Of 
what use to civilization would a 
culture be if its people could never 
leave the home planet?” 

NOMAD 



“No,” agreed Guy. “Once a race 
has conquered space, they must use 
it. It would restrict the knowledge 
of a race not to use space.” 

“So we decided never to accept 
a system wherein we could not 
travel freely to other planets. Who 
knows, but the pathway to the 
planets may be but the first, falter- 
ing step to the stars?” 

“We’d never have reached the 
planets if we’d never flown on the 
air,” agreed Guy. 

“We prefer company, too,” 
smiled Charalas, pointing out the 
next panels. One was of a normal 
system but in which the life was 
not quite ready for the fundamen- 
tals of science and therefore likely 
to become slave-subject to the Er- 
tinian mastery. The next was a 
system in which the intelligent life 
had overrun the system and had 
evolved to a high degree — and Er- 
tene might have been subject to 
them if they had remained. “Un- 
fortunately we could learn nothing 
from them.” said the Ertinian. “It 
was similar to an ignorant savage 
trying to learn something from us.” 
Then they came to a panel in 
which there were ten planets. It 
was a strange collection of oppo- 
sites all side by side. There were 
several races, some fighting others, 
some friendly with others. Plenty 
and poverty sat hand in hand, and 
in one place a minority controlled 
the lives of the majority while pro- 
fessing to be ruled by majority-rule. 
Men strived to perfect medicine 
and increase life-expectancy and 
other men fought and killed by the 
hundreds of thousands. A cold and 

29 



forbidding planet was rich in essen- 
tial ore, and populated by a semi- 
intelligent race of cold-blooded crea- 
tures. The protectors of these poor 
creatures were the denizens of a 
high civilization, who used them to 
tight their petty fights for them, un- 
der the name of unity. For their 
trouble, they took the essential ores 
to their home planet and exchanged 
items of dubious worth. The tres- 
pass of a human by the natives of 
a slightly populated moon caused 
the decimation of the natives, while 
the humans used them by the hun- 
dreds in vivisection since their anat- 
omy was quite similar to the hu- 
man’s. 

“Where is Ertene?” asked Guy. 

“Ertene is not yet placed,” said 
Charalas. 

“No?” asked Guy in wonder. 

“No,” said Charalas with a queer 
smile. “Ertene is still not sure of 
her position. You see, Guy, that 
system is Sol.” 

Guy Maynard stood silent, think- 
ing. It was a blow to him, this 
picturization of the worlds of Sol 
as seen through the eyes of a totally 
alien race. His own feelings he 
analyzed briefly, and he knew that 
in his own heart, he was willing to 
shade any decisions concerning the 
civilization of Ertene in the Erti- 
nian favor ; had any dispute between 
Ertene and a mythical dissenter, 
Guy would have had his decision 
weighted in favor of the wanderer 
for one reason alone. 

Ertinians were human to the last 
classification ! 

Guy smiled inwardly. “Blood is 



thicker than water,” he thought to 
himself, and he knew that while the 
old platitude was meant to cover 
blood-relations who clung together 
in spite of close bonds with friends 
not of blood relationship, it could 
very well be expanded to cover this 
situation. Obviously he as a Ter- 
ran would tend to support a hitman 
race against a merely humanoid 
race. He would fight the Martians 
for Ertene just as*he would fight 
them for Terra. 

Fighting Ertene itself was un- 
thinkable. They were too human ; 
Ertene was too Terran to think of 
strife between the two worlds. Be- 
ing of like anatomy, they would and 
should ding together against the 
whole universe of alien bodies. 

•But — - 

He had spoken to Charalas, to the 
nurses, to the groundkeepers, and 
to the scientists who came to learn 
of him and from him. He had 
told them of Terra and of the Solar 
System. He had explained the 
other worlds in detail and his own 
interpretation of those other cul- 
tures. 

And still they depicted Terra in 
no central light. Terra did not 
dominate the panel. It vied with 
the other nine planets and their satel- 
lites for the prominence it should 
have held. 

What was wrong? 

Knowing that he would have fa- 
vored Ertene for the anatomical 
reasons alone, Guy worried. Had 
his word-picture been so poor that 
Ertene gave the other planets their 
place in the panel in spite of the 
natural longing to place their own 



30 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



kind above the rest? 

“I should think — ” he started 
haltingly, but Charalas stopped him. 

“Guy Maynard, you must under- 
stand that Ertene is neutral. Per- 
haps the first neutral you’ve ever 
seen. Believe that, Guy, and be 
warned that Ertene is capable of 
making her own, very discerning 
decision.” 

Guy did not answer. He knew 
something else, now. Ertene was 
not going to be easily convinced that 
Sol was the place for them. She 
was neutral, yes, but there was 
something else. 

Ertene had the wanderlust! 

For eons, Ertene had passed in 
her unseen way through the galaxy. 
She had seen system after system, 
and the lust for travel was upon 
her. Travel was her life, and had 
been for hundreds of generations. 

Her children had been bora and 
bred in a closed system, free from 
stellar bonds. Their history was a 
vast storehouse of experience such 
as no other planet had ever had. 
Every generation brought them to 
another star and each succeeding 
generation added to the wisdom of 
Ertene as it extracted or tried to 
extract some bit of knowledge from 
each system through which Ertene 
passed. 

With travel her natural life, the 
wandering planet would be loath to 
cease her transient existence. 

Like a man who has spent too 
many years in bachelorhood, flitting 
like a butterfly from lip to lip, Er- 
tene had become inured to a single 
life. It would take a definite at- 



traction to swerve her from her self- 
sufficiency. 

These tilings came to Maynard 
as he stood in thought. He knew 
then that his was no easy job. Not 
the simple proposition of asking 
Ertene to join her own kind in an 
orbit about Sol. Not the mere sign- 
ing of a pact would serve. Not the 
Terran-shaded history of the worlds 
of Sol with the Terran egotism that 
did not admit that Terra could pos- 
sibly be wrong. 

Ertene must be made to see the 
attractiveness of living in May- 
nard’s little universe. It must be 
made more attractive than the in- 
teresting possibilities offered by the 
unknown worlds that lie ahead on 
her course through the galaxy. 

All this plus the natural reticence 
of Ertene to become involved in a 
system that ran rife with war. The 
attractiveness of Sol must be so 
great that Ertene would remain in 
spite of war and alien hatred. 

And Maynard knew in his heart 
that he was not the one to sway them 
easily. Part of his mind felt akin 
to their desire to roam. Even know- 
ing that he would not live on Ertene 
to see the next star he wanted to 
go with them in order that his chil- 
dren might see it. 

And yet his honor was directed 
at the service of Terra. His sacred 
oath had been given to support and 
strive to the best interest of Terra 
and Sol. 

He put away the desire to roam 
with Ertene and thought once more 
of the studying he must do to con- 
vince Ertene of the absolute fool- 
ishness of continuing in their search 



NOMAD 



St 



for a more suitable star than Sol 
about which to establish a residence. 

Maynard turned to Charalas and 
saw that the elderly doctor had been 
watching him intently. Before he 
could speak, the Ertinian said: “It 
is a hard nut to crack, lad. Many 
have tried but none have succeeded. 
Like most things that are best for 
people, they are the least exciting 
and the most formal, and people do 
not react cheerfully to a formal 
diet.” 

Maynard shook his head. “But 
unlike a man with ulcers, I cannot 
prescribe a diet of milk lest he die. 
Ertene will go on living no matter 
whether I speak and sway them or 
whether I never say another word. 
I am asked to convince an entire 
world against their will. I can not 
tell them that it is the slightest bit 
dangerous to go on as they have. 
In fact, it may be dangerous for 
them to remain. In all honesty, 1 
must admit that Terra is not with- 
out her battle scars.” 

Charalas said, thoughtfully : 
“Who knows what is best for civil- 
ization? We do not, for we are 
civilization. We do as we think 
best, and if it is not best, we die 
and another civilization replaces us 
in Nature’s long-time program to 
find the real survivor.” 

He faced the panel and said, 
partly to himself and partly to Guy : 

“Is it best for Ertene to go on 
through time experimenting ? Gath- 
ering the fruits of a million civiliza- 
tions bound forever to their stellar 
homes because of the awful abyss 
between the stars ? For the planets 

#2 



all to become wanderers would be 
chaos. 

“Therefore is it Nature’s plan 
that Ertene be the one planet to 
gather unto herself the fruit of all 
knowledge and ultimately lie barren 
because of the sterility of her cul- 
ture? Are we to be the sponge for 
all thought? If so, where must it 
end? What good is it? Is this 
some great master plan? Will we, 
after a million galactic years, reach 
a state where we may disseminate 
the knowledge we have gained, or 
are we merely greedy, taking all 
and giving nothing? 

“What are we learning? And, 
above all, are we certain that Er- 
tene’s culture is best for civiliza- 
tion? How may we tell? The 
strong and best adapted survive, 
and since we are no longer striving 
against the lesser forces of Nature 
on our planet, and indeed, are no 
longer striving against those of anti- 
social thought among our own peo- 
ple — against whom or what do we 
fight? 

“Guy Maynard, you are young 
and intelligent. Perhaps by some 
whimsy of fate you may be the 
deciding factor in Ertene’s aimless- 
ness. We are here, Guy. We are 
at the gates to the future. My real 
reason for bringing you to the Cen- 
ter of Ertene is to have you present 
your case to the Council.” 

He took Guy’s arm and led him 
through the door at the end of the 
corridor. They went into the gilt- 
and-ivory room with the vast hemi- 
spherical dome and as the door 
slowly closed behind them, Guy 
Maynard, Terran, and Charalas, Er- 



ASTOUNDING SC IENCE-P I CT ION 



tinian, stood facing a quarter-circle 
of ornate desks behind which sat 
the Council. 

Obviously, they had been waiting. 

IV. 

Guy Maynard looked reproach- 
fully at Charalas. He felt that he 
had been tricked , that Charalas had 
kicked the bottom out of his argu- 
ment and then had forced him into 
the debate with but an impromptu 
defense. He wondered how this 
discussion was to be conducted, and 
while he was striving to collect a 
lucid story, part of his mind heard 
Charalas going through the usual 
procedure for recording purposes. 
“Who is this man?” 

“He is Junior Executive Guy 
Maynard of the Terran Space Pa- 
trol.” 

“Explain his title.” 

“It is a rank of official service. 
It denotes certain abilities and re- 
sponsibilities.” 

“Can you explain the position of 
bis rank with respect to other rat- 
ings of more or less responsibility ?” 
Charalas counted off on his fin- 
gers. “From the lowest rank up- 
ward, the following titles are used : 
Junior Aide, Senior Aide, Junior 
Executive, Senior Executive, Sector 
Commander, Patrol Marshal, Sec- 
tor Marshal, and Space Marshal.” 
“These are the commissioned of- 
ficers? Are there other ratings?” 
“Yes, shall I name them?” 
“Prepare them for the record. 
There is no need of recounting the 
noncommissioned officials.” 

“I understand.” 



“How did Guy Maynard come to 
Ertene ?” 

“Maynard was rescued from a 
derelict spaceship.” 

“By whom?” 

“Thomakein.” 

“Am I to assume that Thomakein 
brought him to Ertene for study?” 
“That assumption is correct.” 
“The knowledge of the system of 
Sol is complete?” 

“Between the information fur- 
nished by Guy Maynard and the 
observations made by Thomakein, 
the knowledge of Sol's planets is 
sufficient. More may be learned 
before Ertene loses contact, but for 
the time, it is adequate.” 

“And Guy Maynard is present for 
the purpose of explaining the Ter- 
ran wishes in the question of 
whether Ertene is to remain here ?” 
“Correct.” 

The councilor who sat in the cen- 
ter of the group smiled at Guy and 
said: “Guy Maynard, this is an in- 
formal meeting. You are to rest 
assured we will not attempt to goad 
you into saying something you do 
not mean. If you are unprepared 
to answer a given question, ask for 
time to think. We will understand. 
However, we ask that you do not 
try to shade your answers in such 
a manner as to convey erring im- 
pressions. This is not a court of 
law; procedure is not important. 
Speak when and as you desire and 
understand that you will not be 
called to account for slight breaches 
of etiquette, since we all know that 
formality is a deterrent to the real 
point in argument.” 

Charalas added : “Absolute for- 



83 



N O M A D 



mality in argument usually ends in 
the decision going to the best orator. 
This is not desirable, since some of 
the more learned men are poor ora- 
tors, while some of the best orators 
must rely upon the information 
furnished them by the learned.” 

The center councilor arose and 
called the other six councilors by 
name in introduction. This was 
slightly redundant since their names 
were all present in little bronze signs 
on the desks. It was a pleasantry 
aimed at putting the Terran at ease 
and offering him the right to call 
them by name. 

“Now,” said Terokar, the center 
one, “we shall begin. Everything 
we have said has been recorded for 
the records. But, Guy, we will re- 
move anything from the record that 
would be detrimental to the integ- 
rity of any of us. We will play it 
back before you leave and you may 
censor it.” 

“Thank you,” said Guy. “Know- 
ing that records are to be kept as 
spoken will often deter honest ex- 
pression.” 

“Quite true. That is why we per- 
mit censoring. Now, Guy, your 
wishes concerning Ertene’s alliance 
with Sol.” 

“I invite Ertene to join the Solar 
System." 

“Your invitation is appreciated. 
Please understand that the accept- 
ance of such an invitation will 
change Ertene’s social structure for- 
ever, and that it is not to be taken 
lightly.” 

“I realize that the invitation is 



not one to accept lightly. It is a 
large decision.” 

“Then what has Sol to offer?” 
“A stable existence. The com- 
merce of an entire system and the 
friendship of another world of sim- 
ilar type in almost every respect. 
The opportunity to partake in a 
veritable twinship between Ertene 
and Sol, with all the ramifications 
that such a brotherhood would of- 
fer.” 

“Ertene’s existence is stable, Guy. 
Let us consider that point first.” 
“How can any wandering pro- 
gram be considered stable?” 

“We are born, we live, and we die. 
Whether we are fated to spend our 
lives on a nomad planet or ulti- 
mately become the very center of 
the universe about which everything 
revolves, making Ertene the most 
stable planet of them all, Ertinians 
will continue living. When nomad- 
ism includes the entire resources of 
a planet, it can not be instable.” 
“Granted. But do you hope to 
go on forever?” 

“How old is your history, Guy?” 
“From the earliest of established 
dates, taken from the stones of 
Assyria and the artifacts of Maya, 
some seven thousand years.” 
Charalas added a lengthy discus- 
sion setting the length of a Terran 
year. 

“Ertinian history is perhaps a bit 
longer,” said Terokar. “And so 
who can say ‘forever’?” 

“No comment,” said Guy with a 
slight laugh. “But my statements 
concerning stability are not to be 
construed as the same type of in- 
stability suffered by an itinerant 



34 



A STOUNDINO SC IKNCB-F ICT TO X 



human. He has no roots, and few 
friends, and he gains nothing nor 
does he offer anything to - society. 
No, I am wrong. It is the same 
thing. Ertene goes on through the 
eons of wandering. She has no 
friends and no roots and while she 
may gain experience and knowledge 
of the universe just as the tramp 
will, her ultimate gain is poor and 
her offering to civilization is zero.” 
“I dispute that. Ertene’s life has 
become better for the experience she 
has gained and the knowledge, too.” 
“Perhaps. But her offering to 
civilization?” 

“We are not a dead world. Per- 
haps some day we may be able to 
offer the storehouses of our knowl- 
edge to some system that will need 
it. Perhaps we are destined to 
become the nucleus of a great, galac- 
tic civilization.” 

“Such a civilization will never 
work as long as men are restrained 
as to speed of transportation. Could 
any pact be sustained between plan- 
ets a hundred light-years apart ? In- 
deed, could any pact be agreed 
upon ?”’ 

“I cannot answer that save to 
agree. However, somewhere there 
may be some means of faster-than- 
light travel and communication. If 
this is found, galactic-wide civiliza- 
tion will not only be possible but a 
definite expectation.” 

“You realize that you are asking 
for Ertene a destiny that sounds 
definitely egotistic ?” 

“And why not ? Are you not sold 
on the fact that Terra is the best 
planet in the Solar System?” 
“Naturally.” 



“Also,” smiled Charalas, “the 
Martians admit that Mars is the 
best planet.” 

“Granted then that Ertene is 
stable. Even granting for the mo- 
ment that Ertene is someday to be- 
come the nucleus of the galaxy. I 
still claim that Ertene is missing one 
item.” Guy waited for a moment 
and then added : “Ertene is missing 
the contact and commerce with other 
races. Ertene is self-sufficient and 
as such is stagnant as far as new. 
life goes. Life on Ertene has 
reached the ultimate — for Ertene. 
Similarly, life on Terra had reached 
that point prior to the opening of 
space. Life must struggle against 
something, and when the struggle 
is no longer possible — when all pos- 
sible obstruction has been circum- 
vented — then life decays.” 

“You see us as decadent?” 

“Not yet. The visiting of sys- 
tem after system has kept you from 
total decadence. It is but a stasis, 
however. Unless one has the sam- 
ples of right and wrong from which 
to choose, how may he know his 
own course?” 

“Of what difference is it?” asked 
the councilor named Baranon. “If 
there is no dissenting voice, if life 
thrives, if knowledge and science 
advance, what difference does it 
make whether we live under one so- 
cial order or any other? If thiev- 
ery and wrongdoing, for instance, 
could support a system of social 
importance, and the entire popula- 
tion lives under that code and 
thrives, of what necessity is it to 
change ?” 



NOMAD 



AST— 2S 



35 



“Any social order will pyramid,” 
said Guy. “Either up or down.” 

“Granted. But if all are prepared 
to withstand the ravages of their 
neighbors, and are eternally pre- 
pared to live under constant strife, 
no man will have hig rights trod 
upon.” 

“But what good is this eternal 
wandering ? This everlasting eye 
upon the constantly receding hori- 
zon? This never ending search for 
the proper place to stop in order 
that this theoretical galactic civiliza- 
tion may start? At Ertene’s state 
of progress, one place will be as 
good as any other,” said Guy. 

“Precisely, except that some 
places are definitely less desirable. 
Recall, Guy, that Ertene needs noth- 
ing.” 

“I dispute that. Ertene needs 
the contact with the outside worlds.” 

“No.” 

“You are in the position of a 
recluse who loves his seclusion.” 

“Certainly.” 

“Then you are in no position to 
appreciate any other form of social 
order.” 

“We care for no other social 
order.” 

“I mentioned to Charalas that in 
my eyes, you are wrong. That I 
am being asked to prescribe for a 
patient who will not die for lack 
of my prescription. I can not even 
say that the patient will benefit di- 
rectly. My belief is as good as 
yours. I believe that Ertene is suf- 
fering because of her seclusion and 
that her peoples will advance more 
swiftly with commerce between the 
planets — and once again in inter- 

36 



stellar space, Ertene will have no 
planets with which to conduct 
trade.” 

“And Sol, like complex society, 
will never miss the recluse. Let the 
hermit live in his cave, he is neither 
hindering nor helping civilization.” 
“Indirectly, the hermit hinders. 
He excites curiosity and the wonder 
if a hermit’s existence might not be 
desirable and thus diverts other 
thinkers to seclusion.” 

“But if the hermit withdraws 
alone and unnoticed, no one will 
know of the hermitage, and then no 
one will wonder.” 

“But / know, and though no one 
else in the Solar System knows, I 
am trying to bring you into our 
society. I have the desire of broth- 
erhood, the gregarious instinct that 
wants to be friend with all men. It 
annoys me — as it annoys all men — 
to see one of us alone and unloved 
by his fellows. I have a burning 
desire to have Ertene as a twin 
world with Terra.” 

“But Ertene likes her itinerant ex- 
istence. The fires that burn beyond 
the horizon are interesting. Also,” 
smiled Terokar, “the grass is 
greener over there.” 

“One day you will come to the 
end of the block,” said Guy, “and 
find that the grass is no greener 
anywhere, with the exception that 
you now have no more grass to look 
at, plus the sorry fact that you can- 
not return. A million galactic years 
from now, Ertene will have passed 
through the galaxy and will find her- 
self looking at intergalactic space. 
Then what?” 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



“Then our children will learn to 
live in a starless sky for a hundred 
thousand generations. Solarians 
live in a sky of constant placement ; 
Ertene’s sky is ever changing and 
all sky maps are obsolete in thirty 
or forty years. You must remem- 
ber that to us, wandering is the 
normal way of life. Some of us 
believe that we may eventually re- 
turn to our parent sun. We may. 
But all of us believe that we would 
find our parent sun no more inter- 
esting than others. No Guy, I 
doubt that we will stop there either.” 
“You are assuming that you will 
not remain at Sol?” 

“We are a shy planet. We do 
not like to change our way of life. 
You are asking us to give up our 
life and to accept yours. It is sim- 
ilar to a man asking a woman to 
marry. But a woman is not com- 
pletely reversed in her life when 
she marries. Here you are asking 
us to cleave unto you forever — 
and there is no bond of love to soften 
the hard spots.” 

“I did mention the bond of broth- 
erhood,” said Guy. 

“Brotherhood with what?” asked * 
Terokar. “You ask us to enter a 
bond of twinship with a planet that 
is the center of strife. You ask 
us in the name of similarity to join 
you — and help you gain mastery 
over the Solar System.” 

“And why not?” 

“Which of you is right? Is the 
Terran combine more righteous than 
the Martian alliance?” 

“Certainly.” 

“Why?” 



Guy asked for a moment to think. 
The room was silent for a moment 
and then he said, slowly and pain- 
fully : “I can think of no other rea- 
son than the trite and no-answer 
reason: ‘We’re right because we’re 
right !’ The Martian combine 
fights us to gain the land and the 
commerce that we have taken be- 
cause of superiority in space.” 

“A superiority given merely be- 
cause of sheer size,” said Baranon. 
“The Martians, raised under a grav- 
ity of less than one third of Terra’s 
find it difficult to keep pace with 
the Terrans, who can live under 
three times as much acceleration. 
Battle under such conditions is un- 
fair, and the fact that the Martians 
have been able to survive indicates 
that their code is not entirely 
wrong.” 

Charalas nodded. “Any code that 
is entirely in error will not be able 
to survive.” 

“So,” said Terokar, “you ask us 
to join your belligerent system. You 
ask us to emerge from our pleasure 
and join you in a struggle for exist- 
ence. You ask that we give up the 
peace that has survived for a thou- 
sand years, and in doing so you ask 
that we come willingly and permit 
our cities to be war-scarred and our 
men killed. You ask that we join 
in battle against a smaller, less 
adapted race that still is able to 
survive in spite of its ill-adaption to 
the rigors of space.” 

Guy was silent. 

“Is that the way of life? Must 
we fight for our life? Strife is 
deplorable, Guy Maynard, and I am 
saying that to you, who come of a 



v o »r a r> 



87 




planet steeped in strife. You wear 
a uniform — or did — that is dedi- 
cated to the job of doing a better 
job of fighting than the enemy. 
Continual warlike, activity has no 
place on Ertene. 

“Plus one other thing, Guy May- 
nard. You are honorable and your 
intent is clear. But your fellows 
are none too like you. Ertene would 
become the playground of the Solar 
System. There would be continual 
battles over Ertene, and Ertene with 
her inexperience in warfare would 
be forced to accept the protection 
of Terra. That protection would 
break down into the same sort of 
protection that is offered the Pluto- 
nians by a handful of Terrans. In 
exchange for ‘protection’ against 
enemies that would possibly be no 
better or worse, the Plutonians are 

88 



stripped of their metal. They are 
not accorded the privilege of school- 
ing because they are too ignorant 
to enter even the most elementry of 
schools. Besides, schooling would 
make them aware of their position 
and they might rebel -' against the 
system that robs them of their sub- 
stance under the name of ‘protec- 
tion.’ Protection ? May the High- 
est Law protect me from my pro- 
tectors!” Terokar's lips curled 
slightly. “Am I not correct ? Have 
not the Plutonians the right to life, 
liberty, and the pursuit of happi- 
ness ? It would be a heavy blow to 
Terra if the third planet were forced 
to pay value for the substance that 
comes from Pluto.” 

“After all,” said Guy, “if Terra 
hadn’t got there first, Mars would 
be doing the same thing.” 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE -DICTION 




“Granted/' said Baranon. “Ab- 
solutely correct. But two wrongs 
do not make a right. Terra is no 
worse than Mars. But that does 
not excuse either of them. They 
are both wrong!” 

“Are you asking Terra to change 
its way of life?” demanded Guy. 

“You are asking Ertene to change. 
We have the same privilege.” 
“Obviously in a system such as 
ours a completely altruistic society 
would be wiped out.” 

“Obviously,” said Baranon. 
“Then—” 

“Then Ertene will change its way 
of life — providing Terra changes 
hers.” 

“Mars—” 

“Mars will have to change hers, 
too. Can you not live in harmony ?” 
“Knowing what the Martians did 
to me — can you expect me to greet 
one of them with open arms?” 
“Knowing what you have done to 
them, I wouldn’t expect either one 
of you to change your greetings. 
No, Guy, I fear that Ertene will 
continue on her path until such a 
time as we meet a system that is 
less belligerent and more adapted to 
our way of life.” 

“Then I have failed?” 

“Do not feel badly. You have 
failed, but you were fighting a huge, 
overwhelming force. You fought 
the inheritance of a hundred gen- 
erations of wanderers. You fought 
the will of an integrated people who 
deplore strife. You fought the de- 
sire of everyone on Ertene, and 
since no Ertinian could change Solar 
society, we cannot expect a Terran 
to change Ertinian ideals. You 



failed, but it is no disgrace to fail 
against such an overwhelming de- 
fense.” 

Guy smiled weakly. “I presume 
that I was fighting against a deter- 
mined front?” 

“You were trying to do the most 
difficult job of all. In order to 
have succeeded, you would first 
have had to unsell us on our firm 
convictions, and then sell us the 
desirability of yours. A double job, 
both uphill.” 

“Then I am to consider the mat- 
ter closed?” 

“Yes. We have decided not to 
remain.” 

“You decided that before I came 
in,” said Guy bitterly. 

“We decided that a thousand 
years before you were born, so do 
not feel bitter.” 

“I presume that a change in your 
plans is out of the question even 
though further information on Sol’s 
planets proves you wrong?” 

“It will never be brought up 
again.” 

“I see,” said Guy unhappily. 
“Part of my desire to convince you 
was the hope of seeing my home 
again.” 

“Oh, but you will,” said Chara- 
las. 

Guy was dumfounded. He could 
hardly believe his ears. He asked 
for a repeat, and got it. It was 
still amazing. To Guy. it was out- 
right foolishness. He wouldn’t 
have trusted anyone with such a 
secret. To permit him to return to 
Terra with the knowledge he had — 

“Charalas, what would prevent 



NOMAD 



89 



me from bringing my people to Er- 
tene? I could bring the forces of 
Terra down about your very ears.” 

“But you will not. We have a 
strict, value-even trade to offer 
you.” 

“But it would be so easy to keep, 
me here.” 

“We could not restrain you with- 
out force. And if we must rely 
upon your honor, we’d be equally 
reliant whether you be here or on 
Terra.” 

“Here,” said Guy dryly, “I’d be 
away from temptation. If I were 
tempted to tell, there’d be no one 
to tell it to.” 

“We must comply with an ancient 
rule,” explained Terokar. “It says 
specifically that no man without 
Ertinian blood may remain on Er- 
tene. It was made to keep the race 
pure when we were still about our 
parent sun and has never been re- 
voked. We wouldn't revoke it for 
you alone.” 

“But permitting me to go free 
would be sheer madness.” 

“Not quite. We are mutually in- 
debted to one another, Guy. There 
is the matter of knowledge. You 
gave freely of yours, we gave you 
ours. We have gained some points 
that were missing in our science, 
you have a number of points that 
will make you rich, famous, and re- 
membered. Use them as your own, 
only do it logically in order that 
they seem to be discoveries of your 
own. You admit the worth of 
them ?” 

“Oh, but yes,” said Guy eagerly. 
“Wonderful—” 



“Then there is no debt for knowl- 
edge ?” 

"If any, I am in your debt.” 
“We’ll call it even,” said Bara- 
non, dryly. 

“Then there is the matter of 
life,” said Terokar. “You know 
how you were found?” 

Guy shook his head in wonder. 
“I had been through the Martian 
idea of how to get information out 
of a reluctant man,” he said slowly. 
“I know that their methods result 
in a terrible mindless state which to 
my own belief is worse than death 
itself. I know that as I lost con- 
sciousness, I prayed for death to 
come, even though I knew that they 
would not permit it.” 

“We found you that way. You 
know. And we brought you back 
to life. You owe us that.” 

“Indeed I do.” 

“Then for your life, we demand 
our life in return.” 

“I do not understand.” 

“Your life is yours. We ask that 
you say nothing of us — for we feel 
that we will die if we are found. 
At least, the integrity of Ertene is 
at stake. In any event, we will not 
be taken, you may as well know 
that. And when I say die, I mean 
that Ertene will not go on living in 
the way we want her to live. There- 
fore you will disclose nothing that 
will point our way to anyone.” 
“And you are willing that 1 
should return to Terra with such an 
oath ? What of my oath to Terra ?” 
“Do you feel that your presence 
on Ertene will benefit Terra in 
some small way?” asked Charalas. 
“Now that you have given me 



40 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



the things we spoke of before, I 

do." 

“Then,” said Charalas, “consider 
this point. You may not return un- 
less you swear to keep us secret. 
You may not give Terra the bene- 
fit of your knowledge unless you 
deprive them of Ertene. Is that 
clear ?” 

“If I may not return to Terra, 
and may not remain on Ertene, I 
can guess the other alternative and 
will admit that I do not like it. On 
the returning angle, about all I can 
do is to justify myself in my own 
mind that I have done all that I can 
by bringing these scientific items 
back with me. Since doing the best 
I can for Terra includes keeping 
your secret, I can do that also. 
But tell me, how do you hope to 
cover the fact that I’ve been miss- 
ing for almost a year? That will 
take more than mere explanation.” 

“The process is easy,” said 
Charalas. “We have one of the 
lifeships from the derelict. It was 
slightly damaged in the blast. It is 
maneuverable, but unwieldy. Evi- 
dence has been painstakingly 
forged. Apparently you will have 
broken your straps under the shock 
of the blast — and before the torture 
reached its height — and you found 
yourself in a derelict with no one 
left alive but yourself. You were 
hurt, mentally, and didn’t grasp the 
situation clearly. There was no 
way to signal your plight in secrecy, 
and open signaling would have been 
dangerous since you were too close 
to Mars. 

“You found the lifeship and 



waited until you could safely take 
off. The derelict took a crazy 
course, according to the recorded 
log in your own handwriting, and 
headed for interstellar space. You 
took off at the safe time and have 
been floating free in the damaged 
lifeship. You’ve been on a free 
orbit for the best part of a year.” 
“Sounds convincing enough.” 
“The evidence includes empty air 
cans, your own fingerprints on 
everything imaginable, a dulled can 
opener and the remnants of can 
labels that have fallen into nooks 
and crannies of the ship. The 
water-recovery device has been un- 
der constant operation and examin- 
ation will show about a year’s ac- 
cumulation of residual matter. A 
scratch-mark calendar has been kept 
on the wall of the lifeship, and daily 
it has been added to. That is im- 
portant since the wall will show 
more oxidation in the scratches 
made a year ago than the ones made 
recently. The accumulators of the 
ship have been run down as if in 
service while you were forcing the 
little ship into its orbit, and the de- 
mand recorder shows how the drain 
was used. The lights in the 
ship have been burned, and the de- 
posits of fluorescent material in the 
tubes have been used about the cal- 
culated number of hours. Books 
have been nearly worn out from re- 
reading and they were used with 
fingerprint gloves though they were 
studied by us. Instruments and 
gadgets are strewn about the ship in 
profusion, indicating the attempts 
of an intelligent man trying to kill 
time. Also you will find the initial 



NOMAD 



41 



findings on the energy collector vve 
used in conjunction with the light- 
shield. 

“Now, yourself. Into your body 
we will inject the hormones that 
occur with fear and worry. You 
will not enjoy a bit of atmosphobia, 
but believe us, it is necessary. You 
will have the appearance and atti- 
tude of a man who has been in space 
alone for a year, and luckily for 
you, you are a spaceman and inured 
to the rigors of space travel so that 
it will not be necessary to really give 
you the works in order to make you 
seem natural. 

“As a final touch, both for our 
safety and yours, we will inject in 
your body a substance far superior 
to your anti-lamine. This is not 
destroyed by electrolysis, but only 
by a substance made from the orig- 
inal base. This will protect you 
against any attempt to make you 
talk. As long as it is your will, con- 
sciously or subconsciously, our se- 
cret will be kept. Is there anything 
we may have overlooked?” 

“One thing. The space tan.” 

“That you will get before you 
leave.” 

“Then that sounds like the 
works.” 

“It is. Guy Maynard, we wish 
you the best of luck. We are all 
sorry that you must leave, but it is 
best that way. Sooner or later you 
would become homesick for the 
things you knew on Terra. Ertene 
will not last in your memory, we 
have been careful not to let you in- 
dulge in anything that will leave 
memories either pleasant or un- 
pleasant, and forgetting is easy 

42 



when the subject was uneventful. 
Farewell, Guy Maynard.” 

“Good-bye. And if you ever de- 
cide whether your way is at all 
questionable, have someone look me 
up. I’ll be around Sol.” 

Terokan laughed. “And if you 
find that Sol changes her way of 
living, you may see if you can find 
us!” 

Charalas smiled : “No need. 

They will not. This is farewell for- 
ever, Guy. Good luck.” 

It was little more than an hour 
later that Guy Maynard, inoculated 
with all kinds of shots, was lifted 
into the sky in a heavy spaceship 
and on the way for a predetermined 
section of the Solar sky. 

They left him, a couple of weeks 
later. 

And Guy Maynard was headed 
for Terra in a broken lifeship saved 
from the derelict of the Mardinex. 
He thought of Ertene briefly, and 
then put the thought from him. He 
would never see Ertene again. 

But the things he had in his mind 
would make Ertene’s influence ever- 
lasting over an unknown Terra. 
That alone made the contact worth 
while. 

Guy Maynard stumbled upon an- 
other thought. He had accused 
them of going on forever like an 
itinerant, taking nothing and giving 
nothing and living sterile as far as 
their good toward civilization. He 
was wrong, and now he knew it. 
Ertene did not go on her lonely 
path. She had strewn the fruits of 
experience in Sol’s path as best she 
could and still maintain safety for 

•ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



herself. It was reasonable to sup- 
pose that Ertene had done the same 
things for those other systems. 

Hers was not a useless existence. 
Ertene was doing as much for civ- 
ilization as Terra, surely. 

And though he would never see 
Ertene again, his own personal gain 
from having been to Ertene would 
cause him to remember the wan- 
derer. And even though Terra 
would never know of Ertene’s ex- 
istence, she would benefit from their 
experience. 

Ertene — completely altruistic. 

Or was she completely selfish? 

Terra would never know. 

V. 

Ben Williamson sat bolt upright 
in his chair and listened to the faint 
piping whistle that came through 
the communicator along with the 
sounds from the communications 
office. Te snapped the button call- 
ing for silence in order to hear bet- 
ter, and then scratched his head in 
wonder. 

“Executive to Communications 
and Pilot: Tune in that signal bet- 
ter and get a fix on it. Prepare to 
follow the fix.” 

“Received,” came the laconic re- 
ply, and then the less formal : 
“What’s in the sky, Ben ?” 

“Whether you know it or not, 
that signal was Guy Maynard’s pri- 
vate sign.” 

“I thought so,” said the com- 
munications officer. “I wasn’t cer- 
tain.” 

“We’ll not court-martial you for 
that,” laughed Ben. “After all, you 



didn’t know Maynard personally.” 
“Right. I didn’t know him at all. 
But this fix — I’ve got it.” 

“Can you get range and possible 
track ?” 

“Fairly well.” There was silence 
for several minutes and then the 
communications officer announced 
the figures concerning the distance 
and probable course constants of the 
emitting source. 

“Executive to Technician: Jim- 
my, have you got the cards on the 
Mardinex or did we put them in 
the morgue after we slipped her the 
slug ?” 

“Still got ’em. BuSI thought we 
should keep ’em a bit just in case. 
After all, the Mardinex was a secret 
proposition and to remove her cards 
from the Terran cardexes would be 
like the guy in that story.” 

“Which guy in what story.” 

“The fellow who suspected his 
neighbor of stealing his chickens 
just because he found the neighbor 
garbaging chicken feathers and 
chicken carcasses. They’ve made 
no announcement of the Mardinex' s 
failure to return. To have Terra 
toss away the information that we 
have so painstakingly gathered con- 
cerning her most intimate features 
would be almost an open admission 
that Terra is not longer concerned 
about the Mardinex.” 

“They couldn’t prove a thing.” 
“No, but as the Chinese say: ‘A 
wise man does not stoop to secure 
his shoes in a melon patch nor 
adjust his hat under a cherry tree.’ 
They could trump up enough evi- 
dence to arouse their people if they 
could prove our disinterest in some 

43 



NOM AT> 



concrete manner. As it is, the whole 
system knows that Terra still carries 
the cards of the Mardine x. That’s 
the one thing they’ve ascertained. 
We’ve got ’em all right.” 

“Good. Then as soon as we get 
close enough to that source, and the 
spotters take hold, run the constants 
through the cardex.” 

“Good Sol, Ben. What do you 
expect ?” 

“Dunno. Couldn’t be the Mar- 
dinex, of course. That couldn’t 
possibly be here and now. But — 
that was Maynard’s sign and he may 
have survived in some queer man- 
ner. We know that the Mardine x 
carried lifeships.” 

Time passed as the destroyer ac- 
celerated constantly, reached turn- 
over, and began to decelerate toward 
the suspected position of the signal- 
emitting object. Just after turn- 
over the spotters took hold and an- 
nounced that the object was capable 
of being scanned and analyzed. 

The whirr of the file as the cardex 
ran through the thousands of mi- 
nute cards filled the technician’s 
office and came through the open 
communicator. Then the attention 
bell tingled once, and the card that 
matched the constants of the emit- 
ting object was slid from the file 
into a projector. The micro-printing 
above the cardex pattern was pro- 
jected on the ground glass above the 
instrument and the technician read 
it off in a flat voice. 

“Fore lifeship — standard type 
from Martian space craft of the 
Mardinex class. One of six similar 
models placed in the upper quadrant 



of the ship. These ships are capa- 
ble of four gravities, Terran, and 
are capable of making, the one hun- 
dred million mile trip. No arma- 
ment as per agreements under the 
Eros Conference. Will accommo- 
date thirty passengers for a period 
of ninety days, Terran without dis- 
comfort other than atniosphobia and 
the possibility of avoirduphobia if 
the distance demands free flight for 
any period of time. Equipped with 
spotter equipment and signaling 
equipment capable of reaching in- 
terested searchers but not raising 
those whose equipment is nondirec- 
tive or whose directive equipment 
is pointed away from the emitting* 
source. Also equipped with com- 
plete spares for signaling equip- 
ment — ” 

“That’s enough,” said Ben. “Ex- 
ecutive to Turretman: Trim your 
autoMacs and load the torpedo 
tubes. “This may be a trap.” 

“Right,” said Tim. “And ac- 
cording to Jimmy, they may be try- 
ing to see how we react after a sign 
of the Mardinex ’ s lifeship pattern. 
They’re capable of duplicating that 
pattern, you know.” 

“We’re going in there to win or 
lose,” said Ben soberly. “No matter 
how they take it, we’re ready. Tim, 
put a remote arming fuse in one 
torp and launch it right now. If 
this is trouble, we’ll butter our 
chances. If this is not trouble, we’ll 
keep the arming signal running and 
retrieve the torpedo. Right?” 

“Received. Want it set to remain 
inert as long as the arming signal 
is on?” 

“That’s the order.” 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



The destroyer bucked slightly and 
Tim said: “She’s off. Any time 
anybody thinks we should let her 
roar, poke the arming button on the 
panels.” 

Instinctively, Ben Williamson 
glanced at the minute pilot light that 
gleamed faintly just above a button 
on the ordnance panel. It was the 
left-most button of a row of twenty. 
By reaching out of his chair with 
the right hand and leaning back so 
that his spine was arched deeply, 
Williamson could touch the arming 
control. He nodded, and as he 
watched, the panel below winked 
on, indicating that the turret was 
ready for action. Beside it, the 
winking lights indicated that his 
orders to load up the torpedo tubes 
had been conveyed to the tube crew. 
A string of varicolored lights indi- 
cated a series of interferers and 
space bombs that were being armed 
in the bomb bay. Williamson smiled. 
Tim Monahan was an excellent ord- 
nance officer ; one who rode the 
turret himself and directed the fire 
controls from there. 

“Executive to Pilot: What’s our 
position?” 

“Twenty minutes from object.” 

“Ring the Action Alarm. Who 
knows — we may see action 1” 

“Turretman to Executive: Object 
sighted. Definitely a lifeship. 
Doesn’t look dangerous. Shall we 
take a chance ?” 

“Executive to Communications : 
Answer ’em on their band.” 

“Received. Ben, they went off 
the air as soon as I opened my 
transmitter.” There was some pe- 
riod of silence. “Communications 



to Executive: Identifies himself as 
Guy Maynard. Says alone and safe. 
Cut emitter to prevent curiosity on 
the part of Martian observers who 
may be listening.” 

“Good fellow. He should be an 
Intelligence Officer. Tell him to 
prepare for transshipping.” 

“He says that after a year in that 
sardine can, it can’t be too quick. 
Want him to jump?” 

“Can he put on any speed ?” 

“His suit is still in partial opera- 
tion. He can rev up about a G.” 
“Tell him to dive. We’ll scoop 
him without trying to match speed.” 

Guy smiled vaguely. He made 
one 'last prayer that he could look 
as starved for company as a man 
would after a year in that tiny ship. 
He didn’t stop to wonder why 
they’d asked him to dive. He merely 
prayed that his story would be acted 
as convincingly as his forged diary 
read. He’d partially committed that 
to memory ; certain lapses would be 
expected. It was good and it con- 
tained several references to ideas 
for equipment which would help 
explain his sudden inventive streak. 
He hugged the volume to him and 
dived out of the open space lock. 
Once free of the ship, Guy turned 
the tiny driving fin on and he stood 
upright on the soles of the spacesuit 
shoes. 

And minutes later the destroyer 
arrowed silently past and a silent, 
invisible tractor reached out and 
caught him in the focal area. It 
stretched like a thin elastomer cord, 
invisible, and it accelerated him 
gently as the destroyed sped on. He 

45 



NOMAD 



caught up with the destroyer and 
was taken aboard just as the sound- 
less gout of flame far below marked 
the end of the lifeship. 

“Why ?” he asked patiently, 
shortly and tersely. 

"Didn’t care to leave any evidence 
for the Marties.” 

“Sort of got attached to it,” said 
Guy. 

“Could be, but one sight of that 
anywhere in the Solar System 
would mean trouble. Evidence from 
the Mardinex, you know. Forget it, 
Maynard. You’re far more impor- 
tant. What happened, and how, 
and why?” 

Maynard looked pained. 

“Forget it, Guy. Obviously you 
had a tough time. Take your time 
about telling us. What do you want 
most ?” 

Guy smiled shyly. “I thought 
about that a lot,” he said slowly. 
“I wanted steak and potatoes. I 
wanted cigarettes. I even thought 
of Laura Greggor. I wanted . . . 
Ben, I want everthing, and in mass- 
production lots.” 

“Steak and potatoes we can give 
you. Cigarettes we have in plenty. 
A shower and a shave and a soft, 
well-made man-sized bed. Books 
and pictures and a dollop of liquor, 
too. Candy, cigars, chewing gum, 
et cetera. But the only female we 
have on board is cooky’s pet hen. 
Like a fresh egg?” 

“Anything as long as it is not 
lonely,” said Guy. “My throat is 
slightly lame.” 

“I can imagine. Well, it’s sick 
bay for you and we’ll wait on you. 
And — Guy, there’ll be plenty of 

■a# 



company.” Ben snapped the gen- 
eral communicator button and said : 
“Executive to crew : Junior Execu- 
tive Guy Maynard is aboard. He is 
to be shown every consideration, 
and it is directed that each watch 
appoint three roving spacemen 
whose duties will be to replace crew 
members who will visit Maynard. 
His stay in sick bay is not quaran- 
tine.” 

"Williamson, I’ll take that shower 
now. And then the steak. Got a 
cigarette ?” 

As Maynard ignited the cigarette, 
he thought : Carefully prepared evi- 
dence ! How painstaking they were 1 
Even the scratches on the wall made 
so that the earlier ones would be 
made first. The millions of finger- 
prints. And destroyed because it 
would be bad evidence against us. 
Ironic. And yet — they might have 
missed something. And supposing 
Williamson hadn’t armed that tor- 
pedo but had taken the crate in to 
Terra instead? Then Ertene’s evi- 
dence would have been needed. We 
couldn’t have known — 

“Now for that shower,” he said 
to Ben. There was no use in de- 
liberately thinking of Ertene now. 
Forget it. To Ben he added: 
“Might run through that log of 
mine. Gives you the story pretty 
well, and my voice-box is still un- 
used to talking much. I’m going, 
but I’ll be back.” 

“Good thing you kept a log,” said 
Ben. “It’ll be most valuable evi- 
dence for the investigation.” 

Investigation ! Guy hadn’t thought 
of that factor. Naturally he must 
give his evidence before a court- 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



martial, though he would by no 
means be on trial. Yet, they were 
thorough and he prayed that he 
wouldn’t make the most unnoticed 
slip. They’d ply him with questions 
and watch his answers. He was 
glad that he hadn’t memorized the 
log by rote. To repeat word for 
word certain parts would be ex- 
pected, and to miss completely other 
parts would be expected. There 
would even be parts he had for- 
gotten and parts too doleful for the 
mind to keep fresh. 

Then Guy Maynard put it all 
aside. He forgot his troubles and 
his worries, and gave himself up to 
the luxuries of civilization once 
more. His act was most convinc- 
ing. He ate with relish and smoked 
until his throat was sore. He was 
reticent at the right time, and he 
made it appear as though it had be- 
come habit with him to remain si- 
lent; and also brought out the fact 
that his larynx was slightly unused 
to exercise. He was glad to be 
home, though he deplored the de- 
struction of his lifeship — he spoke 
of it affectionately sometimesr other 
times he outwardly hated the 
thought of it — because there were 
some experiments uncompleted on 
it. They could be duplicated from 
the log, of course, but the originals 
were priceless in his estimation — 

And then the reaction really set 
in. Guy Maynard was home again. 
Home, to Guy, was the ever-chang- 
ing orientation of the starry sky and 
the never constant gravity. He fin- 
gered the ordnance controls on the 
destroyer with affection and real- 



ized that Ertcne was long ago and 
far away, and that his place was 
here, and that his life was geared to 
the quick life of a spaceman in the 
Terran Space Patrol. 

Peace was wonderful, of course, 
and at the time he wanted it des- 
perately. But now he realized that 
the excitement of living in a system 
of planets offered more than the 
placid existence of Ertene with its 
one moon and the occasional space 
trip. 

In spite of the treaties and ac- 
ceptance of peaceful measures made 
on the part of the Martians, there 
was always the chance that some un- 
derhanded move might be made. 
There was that edge to life; that 
fine, razor-sharp edge of excitement 
and danger. Mars might make un- 
toward moves, but it was not all 
Mars’ party. Terra made her own 
espionage and operations tended to 
display her might to the Red Planet. 
Brushes that never reached notice 
were always going on. 

He permitted himself to wax en- 
thusiastic over his being home 
again. They never knew that it was 
not merely the release from space 
loneliness but a return from a too 
long, too uneventful vacation. 

He considered himself objectively 
one day after he found himself look- 
ing forward to the return to Terra. 
The investigation did not bother 
him ; it was the question of whether 
his year of absence from the service 
would cause him a year’s loss in ad- 
vancement. If it caused him no 
loss, he would become a Senior Ex- 
ecutive within a month or so after 
his return. That would give him 



NOMAI) 



4T 



the right to captain a destroyer like 
this one. 

His interest and anxiousness to 
return to Terra had become honest. 
On Ertene he had argued against it. 
Now he knew his mind and also 
knew that Charalas had done the 
proper thing. He would not have 
remained on Ertene. Some day the 
everlasting peace and quiet would 
get him, and then there would have 
been trouble. 

He owed them his life, and if 
some of the things in his log worked 
to his own satisfaction, he owed 
them more than that. He’d keep 
their secret ; denying Terra the right 
to exploit Ertene was hard, but bet- 
ter deny them that than to deny 
them the knowledge he had gained. 
Terra would hold dominance over 
the Solar System without Ertene’s 
presence ; though it was not without 
Ertene’s help. 

Poor Ertene. A sterile, placid 
life that was beginning to look pale 
and uninteresting against the 
rugged, boisterous existence of men 
who roamed the Solar System. 

Let them have their stability. 
What was their history? A few 
thousand years since the dawn of 
their written lore ? Far greater 
than Sol’s though he had been loath 
to tell them that. At that time such 
an admission was like admitting that 
one was but an adolescent. But it 
was true. But in those thousands 
of years, had their science come a 
comparable distance with Terra’s? 

And Guy knew why. With noth- 
ing to strive against, progress ceases. 

He wondered whether the in- 
vestigating committee would make 

48 



an issue of the fact that a junior 
executive had been so oblivious to 
his duty as to permit capture by 
Martians. That was the only fly in 
liis ointment, the only point over 
which he worried. He felt that his 
capture could have happened to any- 
one,. and secretly he admired the 
bold stroke in the light of how dar- 
ing it had been for Mars to storm 
the very ramparts of Sahara Base. 

But investigating committees are 
strange things and their decisions 
are often based on theory instead of 
action with no regard to circum- 
stances. 

That one minor point continued 
to worry him at times. 

And then the destroyer dropped 
out of the sky onto Sahara Base, 
and Guy Maynard stooped to pick 
up a handful of the soil of Terra. 
He shook it in the sky and rubbed 
it into his hands. He smelled of it 
and exhaled deeply. Then, still 
holding a bit of it, he faced the 
sector commander who was waiting 
for him in the command car. 

The commander smiled curtly and 
said: “Junior Executive Maynard, 
you are to speak to no one. You are 
technically not under arrest, nor are 
you to be placed in that light. How- 
ever a violation of the order to dis- 
cuss nothing with anyone will lead 
to arrest.” 

“How long is this quarantine go- 
ing to last, sir ?” 

“Not too long. The Board of 
Investigation will convene tomor- 
row. At that time we will decide 
your future.” 

Maynard entered the command 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 




car and they drove off silently. He 
was thinking: One more hurdle. If 
I can make it — 

His dreams were troubled that 
night. There was nothing definite 
about them ; they were kaleidoscopic 
in nature and Charalas whirled in 
and out of them along with Greggor 
of the Bureau of Exploration and 
Laura Greggor. In these dreams he 
was the central figure; a pitiful, un- 
armed being that could not strike 
back against the pointed questions 
that they hurled at him. He was 
mired in a black mess of intrigue 
that would follow him forever. And 
only by living in constant guarded- 
ness would he be safe. 

For once the hurdle of the in- 
vestigation was passed, there would 
be no recanting. 

God help him if after he perjured 
himself they found out that his tale 
had been designed to cover a definite 
breach of his own oath. 



It was the price he would pay for 
the success that Ertene’s science 
would bring him. 

Yet he knew that if he continued 
as he had started, he would be all 
right. To be convincing in a lie, 
he knew that the first problem was 
to convince himself. 

And so Guy Maynard went into 
the Board of Investigation almost 
self-convinced that his year of lone- 
liness was a fact. 

He didn’t dare consider the fu- 
ture if he failed to convince the 
Board. Not only for himself, but 
for Ertene and Terra both. They 
— he dropped the awful possibility 
there. He stiffened his resolve and 
thrust the thought from his mind.' 
There must be no slip. 

So with a part of his mind fight- 
ing to keep from viewing utter 
chaos, and another pan of his mind 
telling him that he was hiding his 
head in the sand like an ostrich, Guy 



NOMAD 



<0 



Maynard entered the large room 
with the silent, waiting men. 

He swallowed deeply as he noted 
the weight of the platinum braid and 
he took his appointed position with 
a qualm of misgiving. 

VI. 

Guy Maynard’s eyes swept about 
the room and saw eyes that were 
quiet, and if they were not openly 
friendly, at least they were neither 
hostile nor doubtful. The Board 
of Investigation was composed of 
several high officers and a civilian. 
He glanced at the neat pile of papers 
that were placed on the table before 
his appointed position and glanced 
through the names of those present, 
wondering about the civilian; most 
of the officers he knew by sight. 

He nodded to himself ; the civilian 
was Thomas Kane, a news pub- 
lisher, and therefore quite natural a 
presence in this investigation. The 
fact that he was the publisher him- 
self, and not one of his hirelings 
gave the investigation the air of ex- 
treme secrecy, and Guy understood 
that whatever went on in this gath- 
ering today would be held in the 
utmost confidence until the necessi- 
i ties of living made the publicity of 
' the conference desirable — if ever. 
The public would accept the word 
of the publisher with more credulity 
than they would a prepared state- 
ment issued for common consump- 
tion by a propaganda department. 

People had become used to nor- 
mal propaganda, and were capable 
of picking it out and disregarding it. 
A publisher’s own statements were 

so 



considered to be noncontrollable 
since the only recourse that any 
Patrol investigation could take was 
to bar the publisher from their sub- 
sequent conferences, and to combat 
that the publisher could make things 
literally warm for any body of 
Patrol officers who tried to muzzle 
him. 

The chairman, Patrol Marshal 
Alfred Mantley, rapped for order, 
and started the proceedings by tell- 
ing Guy: "We have been in order 
for three hours, during which time 
we have considered the evidence 
presented by the log of your . . . 
er . . . journey. Also, the log has 
been read and digested by profes- 
sional readers and pronounced au- 
thentic. The latter is not so much 
in defense of you, Maynard, as it is 
to assure us that you have not been 
or are not now acting under duress. 
You present us quite a problem, 
young sir. Quite a problem. Coldly 
and cruelly, we would find our lives 
less complicated if you hadn’t re- 
turned,” he said with a laugh. "But 
you are here and we are glad to 
have you returned. You have had 
quite an experience — one that is 
seldom enjoyed and only recorded 
a few times in the annals of the 
Terran Space Patrol. How are you 
feeling ?” 

“Quite all right.” 

“Fine. Now, Guy, tell us in your 
own words a brief account of your 
travels.” 

Guy got as far as the encounter 
with the Martian when he was in- 
terrupted by Patrol Marshal Jones. 
“How do you account for the fact 
that a Martian was able to penetrate 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



to the very heart of Sahara Base?” 

“I have no idea, sir. I, like the 
rest of us, have been led to believe 
that our security in the Base was 
perfect. Naturally I was not 
armed.” 

“No,” said the chairman. "And 
had you been armed, I doubt that 
the encounter would have been dif- 
ferent. Fighting unarmed against 
a Martian who is holding a Mac- 
Millan at the ready is not considered 
the kind of thing that any intelligent 
man would attempt. The fault lies 
with the security office, not with 
you.” 

His chief, Greggor of the Bureau 
of Exploration asked: “Is this an 
official decision? I want it made 
clear that my assistant is not re- 
sponsible for his trouble.” 

“Maynard is not to be held re- 
sponsible. When the word came 
via Senior Executive Williamson, 
the investigation of the kidnaping 
act disclosed that the blame — if any 
— was to lie with Security. Off the 
record, 1 can not see how any se- 
curity bureau could cope with such 
boldness. It was born of despera- 
tion and bred of terror — and it died 
for lack of sheer weight and veloc- 
ity.” 

“Thank you,” said Space Marshal 
Greggor. 

Guy went on, telling his partly- 
memorized tale, until he was again 
questioned. 

“You hadn’t felt the brunt of the 
electrolysis before the Mardinex 
was attacked?” 

“It had just started. The final 
explosion broke my straps and de- 



stroyed the electrolysis equipment.” 
“And you couldn’t make your 
way to a lifeship at that time?” 

“I did as soon as I came to, and 
realized that I was alone. The 
least damaged lifeship required re- 
pairs that were completed several 
hours later. By that time we were 
passing through the midst of Mar- 
tian territory and I thought it best 
to lie low.” 

“You preferred to take the chance 
of orbiting rather than running the 
Martian gauntlet?” 

“Orbiting was no chance, sir. 
Running the gauntlet would have 
been sheer suicide since the Mar- 
tians were extremely interested in 
the Mardinex. They had most of 
their grand fleet out watching. 
Only my velocity — which prevented 
any attempt to stop me — and my ac- 
celeration — which prevented any 
attempt to try to match my speed — 
got me past safely. I am certain 
that they put a pointer on me as we 
went past.” 

“By what reasoning?” 

“I would have done it, sir, if the 
cases had been reversed.” 

“Naturally,” said the chairman. 
“Proceed, Maynard.” 

“Knowing that any deviation of 
the Mardinex or electrical activity 
aboard would register at the Mar- 
tian detector stations, at least until 
we were out of safe range, I pro- 
ceeded to make the lifeship as 
spaceworthy and as comfortable as 
I could. I took plenty of spare 
equipment — ” 

“Of what sort?” 

“Sheer gadgetry, sir. I’ve had a 
few ideas, and this looked as though 



NOMAD 



si 



I’d have plenty of time to try them 
out. I powered the lifeship far be- 
yond her normal power because I 
had to get back home from a ship 
leaving the System at better than 
ten. thousand miles per second.” 

‘‘In order to bring out the re- 
sourcefulness of my assistant,” said 
Greggor, “I want the record to state 
that he prepared for the boredom 
he knew would come.” 

“It is recorded.” 

“Then, as soon as we were be- 
yond the longest possible range of 
the most powerful detector-analyz- 
ers, even when aimed by a pointer, 
and taking into consideration that 
Mars might have had an observer 
out about even with the orbit of 
Pluto, I emerged from the derelict 
and began to decelerate.” 

“Good.” 

“Well, that’s about all,” he said. 
He felt that this was it. He was 
worried that the deeper discussion 
might bring forth errors and con- 
tradictions, and he wanted them to 
lead him into the initial disclosures 
rather than to have them add to a 
statement that might be straining at 
the truth already. “I slept. I 
worked. I did about everything a 
man can do when he’s sitting in a 
lifeship for a solid year waiting for 
his home planet to come close 
enough to signal to. This is the 
hard part. Nothing of any impor- 
tance happened. One hour was like 
the rest. I slept when I got tired 
and worked until I tired of it. I ate 
when hungry. I shaved when my 
beard got uncomfortable. I prob- 
ably have attained a number of bad 
habits during my enforced hermit- 

OJ 



ing, but they will be easily broken.’” 
“Your record is quite clear,” said 
Chairman Mantley. “Is it the 
agreement of this investigation that 
Guy Maynard’s story be accepted ?” 
“I see no reason why it should be 
disputed.” 

“What purpose would Maynard 
have in lying?” 

“It is truthful enough for me.” 
“I’m in accord.” 

“Let’s drop this foolishness,” said 
Kane, the publisher. “What is far 
more important is the public expla- 
nation for Maynard’s absence.” 
“Our friend of the Fourth Estate 
is correct,” said Mantley. “The log 
is accepted, and will be maintained 
in the archives under secret classifi- 
cation.” He smiled at Maynard. 
“Now, young man, you force us 
into developing a year-long cock- 
and-bull story for the public.” 

“Sir? I don’t understand.” 

“If you breathe a word of that 
story to anyone else, you’ll be the 
direct reason for an Interplanetary 
War— with capital letters.” 

“But—” 

“So it’s the truth. You’ll learn, 
young man, that there are times 
when the truth is not always the 
best. You are all right, alive and 
vc ell — to say nothing of being 
equipped with a few brilliant ideas 
for your trouble. Your captors are 
dead and gone. Mars doesn’t really 
know what happened to their Mar - 
dinex, and Terra doesn’t really know 
anything about the incident. You 
can’t be court-martialed for being 
Absent Without Leave for we need 
you and your ideas. You haven’t 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



been spaeewrecked, for no ship is 
missing.” 

“How was my absence ex- 
plained ?” asked Guy. 

"You were M-12.” 

“Oh ?” said Guy. 

“Then it’s easy,” said Greggor. 
“Has his first contact been reported 
yet ?” 

“No. I see your point. Cer- 
tainly. Funny, it never has hap- 
pened this way before and now that 
it did, I forgot the reality.” 

“As an M-12 case, he can make 
the one-year mention in his own 
right. It will also tend to authenti- 
cate other M-12 cases which must 
be false. Then after the third year 
— if he hasn’t been returned to full 
duty already — he can make the 
third-year mention. But instead of 
decreasing the mention, Guy will 
increase it.” 

“Providing it is necessary. After 
all, we are not trying to establish a 
fade-out for a man killed in an inci- 
dent that might lead to total war. 
This time the man has returned.” 

“How can we strengthen this 
contact ?” 

■ Kane spoke up cheerfully. “From 
the stuff in his log, I’d say that the 
best way would be to promote him a 
rank for service above and beyond 
the requirements of his present 
rank. It will also permit him to 
skipper a destroyer or lighter craft 
which was denied him by the Junior 
Executive’s rank. I’ll plant his pic- 
ture in my news sheet with a vague 
reference to the fact that Guy 
Maynard has been engaged in ex- 
periments at a secret place and that 
his initial experiments have been so 



successful that he is being given the 
command of a small laboratory ship 
in order that the experiments may 
be tested in the prime medium.” 
“And then?” 

“Marshal, there is nothing that 
sounds like truth than a lie liberally 
sprinkled with truth. In fact, I’d 
say the latter sounded even better 
than truth.” 

“Truth? Is there any in this 
story ?” 

“Maynard,” asked Kane, “you 
said that some of these things were 
partially assembled and tested in 
that lifeship?” 

“Yes. It is deplorable that they 
were completely destroyed.” 

“Not too deplorable,” said Mar- 
shal Warsaw wryly. “After all, the 
evidence was pretty bald-faced.” 
“Well, his story about working in 
a secret laboratory is not too untrue, 
is it? What could have been more 
secret than his position ? Gentle- 
men, no one but he knew where he 
was ! And some of the experiments 
were eminently successful, were 
they not?” 

“I believe so.” 

“Then his statements warrant the 
trust of this assemblage. What do 
you say, gentlemen?” 

“Sounds reasonable,” said the 
chairman. “Any dissent?” 

There was none. 

“Furthermore,” said Kane, “I’d 
suggest that you have professional 
writers copy his log and convert it 
into a day-by-day account of bis ex- 
periments. Use it as close to the real 
thing as possible so that he won’t 
have to memorize too much. Then 
destroy this original.” 

53 



NOM AD 



“Excellent,” said Patrol Marshal 
Mantley. “Maynard, you may think 
this cold-blooded. No doubt you 
want revenge. I’d want it, I know. 
But we’re all satisfied, here. You 
are hack, and the Martians lost their 
battlecraft.” 

“It does sound brutal,” said 
Maynard, “vknd very depressing. 
But I do suppose that one man’s loss 
against the loss of a heavy space 
craft and a partial crew can not be 
argued. I’ll accept it.” 

“Then,” said Mantley, “this 
Board of Investigation is closed and 
the recommendations will be fol- 
lowed. Maynard, your rank will be 
increased immediately, and until we 
can commission a small laboratory 
ship for you, you are released from 
active duty. You will remain in 
touch with this office, for you will 
be needed from time to time to sign 
papers and to requisition the mate- 
rials you will require to complete 
your experiments. As soon as our 
writers have been able to copy your 
original log, the Bureau of Science 
will check it over and decide which 
of your experiments will be com- 
pleted.” 

“Will I be able to work on the 
rest of them, sir?” 

“That depends. You will prob- 
ably be called upon for consultation 
since you developed them. But we 
cannot overlook the urgency of 
some of these.” 

Space Marshal Greggor came 
over to Guy and placed an arm over 
the young man’s shoulders. “That 
was quite an experience, Guy. Far 
beyond the experiences of most 

r.l 



men. I am sorry for myself, and 
happy for you. You’ll be coming 
to the house?” 

“As soon as I can get settled, sir. 
Possibly tonight.” 

“Excellent. I’ll prepare Marian 
and Laura — they think you’re a real 
M-12.” 

“Will it be a shock?” 

“Somewhat. They aren’t too cer- 
tain of the M-12 business; though 
they do not know the blunt truth, 
they are aware that few men classi- 
fied under the M-12 are ever heard 
of again. That’s because they’re 
close to the Service. M-12 is a bril- 
liant method of permitting a man to 
drop from sight, since it was de- 
signed to permit a man to leave his 
friends gently — the so-called con- 
tacts are made by telegram and per- 
sonal messenger to remove certain 
portions of the man’s effects and to 
pay his rent and so on. Eventually 
all of his stuff is gone, his friends 
wonder where he is and eventually 
forget him, 

“But your return will put faith in 
M-12 a gam. They’ll both be glad 
to see you.” 

“You must do me a favor,” asked 
Guy earnestly. “Please explain to 
Laura about my leaving without 
saying good-bye.” 

“I’ll do that. M-12 is the roughest 
on the ones who are close without 
being blood relations. We’ll smooth 
it over. Now take it easy. Hello, 
Kane,” he said looking over Guy’s 
head. “Are you sorry we deprived 
you of a story?” 

“Some day this young man will 
make me a better one,” laughed 
Kane. “Drop up to the office to- 

ASTOUNDINC, SCIENCE -FICTION 



morrow if you can. I’ll buy lunch 
— you deserve some special treat- 
ment to pay for your year of — 
experimenting. He’ll be -safe,” said 
Kane to Greggor. 

“I know it,” said the Space Mar- 
shal. ‘‘You wouldn’t be permitted 
the inside Council unless you were 
proven, you know.” 

“I’ll do more,” said Kane. “I’ll 
halve one of my boys run over the 
forged log for you. He can make 
it sound a bit more authentic. I’ve 
always thought that your logs and 
diaries were a little stiffish. A bit 
of yearning and youthful hope 
would lend that log a world of real- 
ity, it having been written by a 
lonely young scientist.” 

“That’s a deal. Well, take it easy. 
And we’ll see you later.” 

Guy Maynard arrived to find his 
room in order as according to the 
treatment given M-12 cases. He 
walked around the room and in- 
spected everything there, finally 
dropping into the easy-chair to 
think. It struck him, then. For a 
moment he was thoughtful, and 
then the humor of the situation hit 



him like a blow. 

For Ertene had prepared a world 
of painstaking evidence to support 
his tale of suffering and trouble. 
They gave him every bit. 

And for their trouble on the life- 
ship, it had been destroyed without 
inspection because of Terran fear 
of discovery. Not that Terra was 
concerned about reprisals, but just 
because Terran ideas of exchange 
dictated that they should let a mat- 
ter drop after they had received the 
better of the argument. 

And then his story. Had he 
memorized that log day for day and 
word for word, it would have been 
of no use. He was ordered to for- 
get it in every detail save those 
“ideas” he was supposed to have 
had. 

How neatly had the Terrans de- 
stroyed every mite of Ertinian evi- 
dence. 

All expect the scientific side. 

And Ertene would roam on 
through the Galaxy in utter silence, 
having scattered the seeds of ad- 
vancement upon fertile ground. 

Ertene’s life was not in vain. 



TO BE CONTINUED. 




NOMAD 



SB 




Tricky 



Tonnage 



by MALCOLM JAMESON 



Tricky indeed. A very neat system of cheap transpor- 
tation it made, too — but it led to some slight difficul- 
ties with rocks that footed and roads that sank! 



Illustrated by Kramer 



When you’ve lived across the 
fence from an amateur inventor, 
you come to expect anything. When 
the wind was right we used to get 
some of the aw fullest chemical 
stinks from the Nicklheim barn, 
and we got so used to hearing ex- 
plosions that they didn’t bother us 
any more than automobile back- 

5 « 



fires. We just took it for granted 
when we’d see Elmer, the boy next 
door, walking around with his eye- 
brows singed off and the rest of 
him wrapped up in bandage. 

When Elmer was a little tad, he 
was a great enthusiast for scientific 
fiction. You hardly ever saw him 
unless he was lugging some Jules 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



Vernian opus around, and he ate 
up all he read with dead earnest- 
ness. With that yen for science it 
might have been expected that he 
would , shine at school, but it did 
not work out that way. He wouldn’t 
go along in the rut laid out for the 
run-of-the-mine student. The 
physics prof finally had him kicked 
out for some crazy stunt he pulled 
with the school’s equipment. Elmer 
hooked it all together in a very un- 
orthodox way, and the resulting 
fireworks was quite a show. 

Being barred from school did not 
faze Elmer. He rigged up his own 
lab in the barn, buying the stuff 
from mail order houses with money 
he made doing odd jobs. Some of 
the people in the town thought the 
boy might go places; most simply 
thought he was a nut. I belonged 
to the former group, and sometimes 
helped the kid with small loans. 
Not many of his inventions panned 
out, but he did sell one gadget useful 
in television to a big company. In 
a way it proved to be a bad thing 
he did. The company bought the 
idea outright and paid promptly, 
but afterwards for reasons of its 
own it suppressed the invention — 
an act that irked Elmer exceedingly. 
It prejudiced him violently against 
big corporations as such and the 
whole patent set-up in general. He 
swore that after that he would keep 
all his discoveries secret. 

About that time his father died, 
and it looked as if Elmer had fin- 
ished with his scientific dabbling 
phase. Overnight he seemed to ma- 
ture, and after that he was seldom 
seen pottering around his bam. He 



was busy about town, carrying on 
the little one-horse trucking busi- 
ness bequeathed him by the old man. 
His truck was one of those vintage 
rattletraps that appear to be always 
threatening a make the legend of 
the one hoss shay come true, but 
Elmer was a fair mechanic and 
somehow kept the old crate going. 
Not only that, but to the astonish- 
ment of the citizenry, he seemed to 
be making money at it, and that at 
a time when rate competition was 
keen and gas expensive and hard 
to get. I was beginning to think 
we had witnessed the end of a bud- 
ding scientist and the birth of an 
up and coming young business man. 
It was Elmer himself who disabused 
me of that notion. 

One morning he stopped his truck 
at my gate and came up onto the 
porch. He pulled out a wad of 
bills and peeled off a couple of twen- 
ties. 

“Thanks,” he said. “It was a 
big help, but I’m O.K. now.” 

“Oh, that’s all right,” I said. 
“There was no hurry about paying 
it back. But I’m glad to see you’re 
doing well in the hauling game. It 
may not be as distinguished as get- 
ting to Ire known as a big shot 
scientist, but at least you eat.” 

He gave me a funny look and 
sort of smiled. 

“Hauling game, huh?” he sniffed, 
“I’d never thought of it that way. 
I don’t cart stuff around for the 
fun of it, or the money either. 
That’s incidental. What I’m doing 
is testing out a theory I thought 
up.” 

“What’s that one, Elmer?” I 



TRICKY TONNAGE 



67 



asked. I had heard a lot of his 
theories, first and last, and seen 
most of them go flop. Elmer had 
a very screwy approach to the mys- 
teries of nature. 

“It’s about gravity. I’ve found 
out what it is, which is more than 
anybody else since Newton has done. 
It’s really very simple once you 
know what makes it.” 

“Yes,” I agreed. “That is what 
Einstein says, except that he hasn’t 
finished his universal field formula. 
So you’ve beat him to it?” 

“Yes. I’ve been running my 
truck by gravity for the last three 
months.” 

That didn’t quite make sense to 
me. The country round about was 
hilly and a lot of coasting was pos- 
sible. But still a vehicle couldn’t 
coast up hill. Elmer was studying 
me uncertainly, and I realized he 
wanted to talk to somebody, but 
he was always so cagey about his 
projects that I hesitated to come 
right out and ask. 

“I’ve discovered something big,” 
he said, soberly. “So big I don’t 
know what to do with it. I’d like 
to show it to somebody, only — ” 

“Only what?” 

“Oh, a lot of reasons. I don’t 
mind being laughed at, but I’d like 
to keep this secret for awhile. If 
the other truckers found out how 
I’m doing what I do, they might 
gang up on me, smash the truck, 
and all that. Then again there's 
no telling what somebody else might 
do with my idea if they got hold of 
it before all the theory is worked 
out.” 

“I can keep a secret,” I told him. 



“All right,” he said. “Come 
along and I’ll show you something.” 

I got in the truck with him. He 
stepped on the starter and the 
cranky old engine finally got going, 
though I thought it would shake 
us to pieces before it made up its 
mind whether to run or not. Then 
we lurched off down the road, rat- 
tling and banging like a string of 
cans tied to a mongrel’s tail. 

“Where does the gravity come 
in?” I asked. 

“I don’t use it in town,” he said. 
“People might get wise to me.” 

We went on down to the oil com- 
pany’s bulk station. It had been 
raining off and on all week and 
there was a good deal of mud, but 
Elmer skirted the worst puddles 
and we got up to the loading plat- 
form all right. It was there I got 
my first surprise. A couple of 
huskies started loading up that 
truck, and when they were through 
I would have bet my last simoleon 
Elmer would not get two miles with 
it. There were six big barrels of 
grease, weighing four hundred 
pounds each, a half dozen drums of 
oil, and some package goods. The 
truck kept creaking and groaning, 
and by the time the last piece was 
on, its springs were mashed out flat 
as pancakes. It was bad enough to 
have that overload, but the stuff 
was for Peavy’s store out at Breed- 
ville — forty miles away over as 
sketchy a bit of so-called highway 
as can be found anywhere in 
America. 

“You’ll never get over Five Mile 
Hill with that,” I warned Elmer. 



S3 



ASTOUNDING, SCIF.N CBS -FT G'TI ON 




but he just grinned and pocketed 
the invoices. The oil company agent 
was looking on in a kind of puzzled 
wonder. He had used Elmer’s de- 
livery service before, but it was 
clear that he didn’t believe his eyes. 
Meanwhile Elmer got the motor go- 
ing and we backed out of the yard. 
There was a good deal of bucking 
and backfiring and shimmying, but 
pretty soon we were rolling along 
toward the edge of town. 

Just beyond the last house the 
Breedville road turns sharp to the 
right into some trees, and Elmer 
stopped at a secluded place where 
there was an outcropping of bed- 
rock alongside the road proper. He 
killed the engine and got a cable- 

TBICKY TONNAGE 



like affair out of his tool box. 

“The first step,” he said, “is to 
lighten the load.” 

He hooked one end of the cable 
against the side of a grease barrel 
and the other he led to the bare 
bedrock and attached it there. The 
cable terminated in what appeared 
to be rubber-suction cups. It 
looked as if it were made of braided 
asbestos rope, threaded with cop- 
per wire, and near one end it spread 
out in a flattened place like the hood 
of a cobra. There was a small 
dial and some buttons set in that. 
Elmer set the dial and punched a 
button. Instantly there was a pop- 
ping sound as the truck bed stirred, 
and I saw that it jumped up about 

69 



a quarter or half an inch. 

“Now heft that barrel,” said El- 
mer. 

I did. If there hadn’t been an- 
other one right behind me, I would 
have gone overboard backward. I 
got hold of the top of the cask and 
gave it a tug, not dreaming I could 
budge four hundred pounds of 
heavy grease. But it came away 
with about the same resistance that 
an empty cardboard carton would 
have had. 

“What makes weight,” explained 
Elmer, “is gravitons. All molecular 
matter contains them in various de- 
gree. Up to now nobody knew how 
to extract them. You could only 
manipulate weight by moving the 
matter itself. I simply drain most 
of the gravitons off into the bed- 
rock where it will be out of the 
way. It’s easy because there is a 
gravitic gradient in that direction.” 

As an explanation it was a long 
way from being satisfactory. But 
there was the barrel, plainly sten- 
cilled with its gross weight, and it 
was now practically weightless. The 
weight had left as abruptly as a 
short-circuited electric charge. 
Moreover, Elmer was shifting his 
cable from one drum to another, 
and as he touched each one the 
truck rose another notch. By the 
time he was through it rode as high 
as if there was no load at all. 

“I’ll use the last one of these 
drums for power,” said Elmer, 
coiling up his cable and putting it 
away. Then I saw that he was 
making a short jumper connection 
between it and another cable run- 
ning down under the cab to the 

60 



hood. He lifted that up and showed 
me an attachment on the shaft be- 
hind the motor. It was a bulbous 
affair of metal and there were two 
leads to it. One was the connec- 
tion to the drum, the other was a 
short piece of cable that dangled 
to the ground. 

“I call that my Kineticizer,” said 
Elmer. “It is really a gravity motor. 
It works on exactly the same prin- 
ciple as a water turbine except that 
it doesn’t require the actual pres- 
ence of the water. The upper 
cable has more gravitic resistance 
than the one I use to dump the load. 
It feeds a slow stream of gravitons 
to the upper vanes of a steel rotor. 
They become heavy and start to 
fall, exerting torque. At the bot- 
tom they wipe the ground cable 
and the moving gravitons simply 
waste away into the road. Four 
hundred pounds falling four feet 
gives a lot of power — especially 
when you use it all. See?” 

Did I? I don’t know. It sounded 
plausible, and anyway Elmer banged 
down the hood and we climbed back 
into the cab. That time we started 
off like a zephyr. There was 
smooth, silent, resistless power, and 
the truck being lightened of its load, 
leaped like a jack rabbit. The 
gasoline motor was idle. The only 
noise was the rattling of the fenders 
and the swish of the air. Breed- 
ville began to look more attainable. 

After we straightened out on the 
road, Elmer began to tell me about 
gravities. 

“It was Ehrenhaft’s work with 
magnetics that got me to thinking 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



about it. Since he was already do- 
ing magnetolysis I didn’t bother to 
go along that line. What interested 
me was the evident kinship on the 
one hand between electric and mag- 
netic phenomena in general, and 
between the strong magnetism of 
electric fields and iron and the rela- 
tively weak magnetism of all other 
substances.’' 

I kept on listening. Elmer’s 
whole theory of gravities was pretty 
involved, and in some spots down- 
right screwy. But on the whole it 
hung together, and there I was rift- 
ing along on a stream of moving 
gravitons to prove it. According 
to the Elmerian doctrine, in the be- 
ginning there was chaos and all mat- 
ter was highly magnetic. It there- 
fore tended to coalesce into nebulae, 
and thence into stars. 

There the fierce pressures and 
temperatures tended to strip the 
basic matter of its more volatile 
outer shells and hurl them outward 
in the form of radiant energy. 
Atomic stresses yielded enormous 
quantities of light and heat and 
great streams of magnetons and 
electrons. In the end there is only 
ash — the cold inert rocks of the 
planetary bodies. With the excep- 
tion of the ferric metals none of 
that ash retains more than a bare 
fragment of its original magnetic 
power. Yet even rock when in mas- 
sive concentration has strong at- 
tractive power. The earth is such 
a concentration, and its pull on the 
apple was what woke Newton up. 

From that concept Elmer dug 
into the apple itself and into the 
atoms that compose it. Mass, he 



claimed, in so far as what we call 
weight is concerned, is simply a 
matter of gravitonic coefficient, a 
graviton being the lowest unit — one 
more aspect of the atom. It is the 
nucleus of a magneton, what is left 
after the outer shells have been 
stripped away. The graviton is ut- 
terly inert and heretofore locked 
inseparably in the atoms of the sub- 
stance to which it originally be- 
longed. If only they could be in- 
duced to move, their departure 
would rob the parent substance of 
nothing except weight, and by mov- 
ing pure essence of weight poten- 
tial energy could be turned into 
kinetic with the minimum of loss. 

“It was finding a suitable con- 
ductor that stumped me longest,” 
Elmer confessed, “and I’m not tell- 
ing yet what that is. But as soon 
as I found it I built this motor. 
You see for yourself how beauti- 
fully it works.” 

I did, and I saw a myriad of rosy 
dreams as well. We took Five Mile 
Hill like a breeze, almost floating 
over, thanks not only to the silent 
drive but to the weightlessness of 
the cargo. I thought of all the mas- 
sive mountain ranges just sitting in 
their grandeur with billions and bil- 
lions of foot-tons of locked up en- 
ergy awaiting release. I could en- 
visage hundreds of kineticizer plants 
around their slopes sending out an 
abundance of free power. What it 
did not occur to me to think of was 
what would happen when those 
mountains eventually became 
weightless. What worried me most 
just then was haw the other prop- 
erties of materials would be affected 



TRICKY TONNAGE 



with alteration of its natural weight. 

“Oh. not much/' said Elmer. 
“The relative weights of duralumi- 
num, steel and lead have nothing 
whatever to do with their tensile 
strength. I drained off most of 
the weight of a pan of mercury and 
tested it. I found that it got a 
lot more viscous when it was light, 
a characteristic that is overcome by 
its normal heaviness. But other- 
wise it was still mercury. There is 
an anvil in my barn that weighs 
less than a toy balloon. If it wasn’t 
kept clamped to the block it sits 
on, it would soar and bump against 
the rafters, but as long as I keep 
it from doing that I can still ham- 
mer iron out on it.” 

We were nearly to Breedville 
when it began to rain again. Elmer 
put up the storm curtains, and I 
asked him about how Mr. Peavy 
was going ‘to react at getting bar- 
rels of grease that were lighter than 
whipped cream. 

“I’m going to take care of that 
before we get there,” said Elmer. 

I found out what he meant when 
he pulled up under a railroad under- 
pass about a mile this side of 
Peavy’s store, tie got out and pro- 
duced his cable again. This time 
he attached it to the face of one 
of the concrete abutments that held 
up the girders carrying the track. 
One by one he reloaded the barrels 
by dead weight sucked out of the 
abutment and let it run into the 
containers on the truck. Again the 
truck body settled groaning on its 
springs. 

“I’m working on a way to meter 
this flow more accurately,” said 

62 



Elmer with a grin. “The last load 
out here Peavy squawked like 
everything because the stuff was 
light. This time I’ll give him good 
measure. Nobody ever kicks at 
getting more pounds than he paid 
for.” 

Well, there it was — Elmer’s stunt 
full cycle. No wonder his gas and 
tire costs were less than anybody 
else’s in the business, or that he 
could set out on a long trip with 
an impossible load. He had only 
to reduce the load to zero, using 
part of it for power, and replenish 
it at the other end of the line. 

We went on to Peavy’s, using 
the wheezy gasoline motor again. 
No one at the store saw anything 
amiss when we drove up, and 
though Peavy was careful to roll 
each box and drum onto the scale, 
he made no comment when he 
found them markedly overweight. 
He probably figured it was only 
justice from the short-changing he 
had had on the delivery before, and 
on which the oil company had been 
adamant as to adjustment. Elmer 
then picked up some empty drums 
and we started back. 

The rain was coming down hard 
by then, and when we got to the 
underpass there were several inches 
of water in it. Elmer stopped long 
enough to draw off a few more hun- 
dred pounds of avoirdupois into one 
of the empty drums so as to have 
power for the trip home, tie said 
it was the best place along his route 
to get needed weight in a hurry. 

We started up, but had not gone 
more than about a hundred yards 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



when we heard a terrific swoosh 
behind us, and on the heels of it a 
resounding metallic crash and the 
scream of shearing metal. The 
ground shook, and a wave of muddy 
water swept along the road from 
behind and passed us, gurgling 
among the wheel spokes. 

“What on Earth?” yelled Elmer, 
and stopped the car. 

What was behind us was not 
pretty to see. The concrete abut- 
ment we had just left had slid 
from its foundation straight across 
the road until it almost impinged 
on its opposite mate. What had 
been the earth fill behind it was a 
mass of sprawling semiliquid mud. 
Sodden by days of rain and heavy 
with water, the fill had come to act 
like water behind a dam and sim- 
ply pushed along the line of least 
resistance. The now practically 
weightless retaining wall gave way, 
since there was only friction to hold 
it where it should be. The two 
great black steel-girders that it sup- 
ported lay at an awkward angle half 
in the pit where the underpass had 
been, half sticking up into the air. 

“Gosh,” said Elmer, gazing at 
the spectacle. “Do you suppose I 
did that?” 

“I’m afraid you did,” I said. 
“Maybe concrete don’t need weight 
for strength, but it has to have 
something to hold it down.” 

Well, the damage was done, and 
Elmer was scared. A train was due 
soon and something had to be done 
about it. So we drove on to the 
first farmhouse that had a phone 
and sent in word about a washout. 



After that we went on home, Elmer 
being pretty chastened. 

The days that followed were quite 
hectic. The more the railroad and 
public utility commission engineers 
studied the retaining wall’s failure, 
the more baffled they became. The 
abutment itself was unmarred in 
the least degree. There was not 
a crack in it, and only a few chipped 
places where the falling girders had 
knocked corners off. Experts chis- 
eled chunks of it and took them 
to dozens of engineering labs. The 
records of the contracting firm that 
built it were overhauled. The wall 
was up to specifications and had 
been thoroughly inspected at the 
time of construction. The frag- 
ments subjected to strains and 
stresses reacted as they should, hav- 
ing exactly the tensile and compres- 
sion strength it should have. The 
mix was right, the ingredients with- 
out flaw. The hitch was that the 
stuff under examination had about 
the same weight as an equal volume 
of t>alsa wood! 

Learned treatises began to ap- 
pear in the engineering journals 
under such titles as, “Weight Loss 
in Mature Concretes,” “Extraordi- 
nary Deterioration Noted in Failure 
of Concrete Railway Abutment,” 
and so on. Throughout the whole 
strange controversy Elmer never 
peeped, and neither did I. I kept 
silent for several reasons, and only 
one of them was the fact that I 
had given Elmer my pledge not to 
divulge his invention before he gave 
the word. Mainly I felt that what- 
ever I might tell them would be re- 



TRICKY TONNAGE 



es 







ceived as too ridiculous to be be- 
lieved. After all, people just don't 
go around sapping idle weight from 
stationary objects. 

The sequel to the incident has to 
remain obscure. The very ride that 
let me into the secret proved also 
to be the cause of my being ex- 
cluded from it thereafter. I caught 
a cold that day, and before long it 
turned into pneumonia. Complica- 
tions followed, and there were some 
months when I was confined to a 
hospital bed. When I was out again 
and around, my neighbor Elmer had 
gone, presumably in search of wider 
fields. 

It is a pity that Elmer’s unfor- 
tunate experience with his earlier 
invention soured him on the usual 
channels of development, for I 

64 



think what happened to him later 
was that he got into the hands of 
unscrupulous promoters. For quite 
a long time after the collapse of the 
railroad crossing I heard nothing of 
Elmer himself or his world-shaking 
discovery. But little bits of news 
kept cropping up that indicated to 
me that while Elmer’s secret was 
being kept, it was not getting rusty 
from disuse, though he lacked the 
necessary business imagination ever 
to put it to its best uses. 

There was the phenomenal suc- 
cess of Trans-America "Trucking, 
for example. It was significant to 
me that the Eastern terminus of its 
main haul was laid out in the bottom 
of an abandoned rock quarry and 
its Pacific end in a deep canyon. 
I thought I knew where the power 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



came from, especially when an oil 
salesman told me he had tried hard 
to get the Trans- America contract. 
They not only refused to buy from 
him, but he could not find out what 
company, if any, was supplying 
them. I also noted that Trans- 
America was continually embroiled 
in law suits arising from discrepan- 
cies in weights. I knew from that 
that Elmer had not yet solved the 
problem of metering his weight 
siphons. 

There were other straws that 
pointed to Elmer’s fine hand. High- 
way engineers along the routes trav- 
ersed chiefly by his trucks discov- 
ered after a time that even the dirt 
roads over which the trucks ran 
needed little or no binder. The sur- 
face soil was found to be incredibly 
heavy, like powdered lead, and 
therefore did not dust away under 
high-speed traffic. In the course of 
time it became as hard and com- 
pact as the floor of a machine shop 
where iron chips form the soil. 

But eventually there was trouble. 
Disloyal employees must have stolen 
lengths of Elmer’s mysterious gravi- 
ton conductor, for there was a story 
told in some glee of a policeman 
giving chase to a fleeing man who 
had a big iron safe on his shoul- 
ders! The burglar got away, so 
for a time Elmer’s secret was com- 
paratively safe. And then there 
was the exposure of what was later 
known as the spud racket. 

One of Trans- America’s ex- 
truckmen, being aware that potatoes 
were sold by the pound, saw oppor- 
tunity. He absconded with a length 



of Elmer’s cable and set himself 
up in the potato business. He was 
modest at first. The spuds he han- 
dled were overweight, but not too 
much too heavy when he resold 
them. The dieticians in the big in- 
stitutions were the first to notice 
something wrong, for they had 
analysts to interpret the figures. But 
greed got the best of the gangster 
truckman. Not content with his 
initial ten or twenty percent boosts 
in weight, he poured on the avoir- 
dupois thicker and thicker. The 
average housewife began to com- 
plain that big potatoes required all 
her strength to lift. 

The day the market inspectors 
raided the man’s storehouse the cat 
was out of the bag. They uncovered 
an endless stream of potatoes on 
a conveyor belt that ran by a bin 
filled with scrap iron. As each spud 
passed a certain point it was wiped 
by a wisp of mineral wool, where- 
upon the belt beneath sagged deeply 
and spilled the potatoes onto the 
floor. Cranes scooped them up and 
carried them to the packing depart- 
ment. 

The subsequent prosecution ran 
into a myriad legal difficulties. 
There was ample precedent for deal- 
ing with short weights, but none 
for artificially added surplus weight. 
Chemists sought to prove, once they 
tumbled to the concept of movable 
gravitons, that the introduction of 
ferrous gravitons into a food prod- 
uct constituted a willful adultera- 
tion. They failed. The composition 
of the potatoes was no more altered 
than , is that of iron when tempo- 
rarily magnetized. In the end the 

«6 



TRICKY TONNAGE 



case was thrown out of court, much 
to the anger of some theologians 
who had also developed an interest 
in the case. 

That there was at once a spate 
of laws forbidding the alteration of 
natural weights was inevitable. 
State after state enacted them, and 
the Interstate Commerce Commis- 
sion began an investigation of 
Trans- America Trucking, damaging 
admissions having been made by the 
potato racketeer. It was the col- 
lapse of one of the cliffs at the 
western terminus of that company 
that was the straw to break the 
camel’s back. Weight shifting be- 
came a federal offense with drastic 
penalties. 

Perhaps collapse is a badly chosen 
word. The cliff disintegrated, but 
it did not fall. It soared. 

It happened late one afternoon 
shortly after a heavy convoy ar- 
rived from the east. Thousands of 
tons of weight had to be made up, 
and the power units of the incoming 
trucks recharged with still more 
weight. The already lightened cliff 
yielded up its last pounds, for it had 
been drawn upon heavily for a long 
time. Its stone, being loosely strati- 
fied, lacked cohesion, so with sound 
effects rivaling those of the siege of 
Stalingrad, it fell apart — upward — 
in a cloud of dust and boulders. 
The fragments, though stone, 
weighed virtually nothing, rose like 
balloons and were soon dispersed 
by the winds. 

Unfortunately the canyon was 
not far from the most traveled 
transcontinental air route. Within 
an hour pilots were reporting seeing 



what they described as inert bodies 
floating in the upper air. One of 
them ran into a stone no bigger 
than his fist, but since he was mak- 
ing several hundred miles an hour 
at the time, it neatly demolished one 
of his wings. That night two 
stratoliners were brought down, 
both riddled with imponderable 
gravel. The debris while lighter 
than air, still had some residual 
weight and unimpaired tensile 
strength. 

Congress intervened. Trans- 
America’s charter was voided and 
its equipment confiscated and de- 
stroyed. Elmer was forbidden to 
resume business except in orthodox 
lines. There was no place in the 
United States for his invention. 

That should have been the end of 
the Theory of Gravities and its un- 
happy applications. But it was not. 
For Elmer had associates by that 
time who had tasted the luxury of 
sure and easy profits, and they were 
not to be denied. Rumor had it 
that it was his shady partners who 
took over the financial end and 
relegated him to his lab again to 
hunt for other means of utilizing 
his kineticizcr. However that may 
be, the next stage was several years 
in incubation. For a time gravitons 
ceased to be news except in scienti- 
fic circles where controversies pro 
and con still raged. People had 
already begun to forget when 
Caribbean Power announced itself 
to the world. 

It started operating from a tiny 
island republic known as Cangrejo 
Key. Through oversight, or be- 



ASTOUNDING SC IE MCE F ICT I ON 



cause it was a worthless patch of 
coral sand frequently swept by hur- 
ricanes, mention of it was omitted 
in the treaty between the United 
States and Spain at the end of the 
war of 1898. It was still Spanish 
until the graviton syndicate bought 
it from an impoverished Franco for 
a few millions in real gold. Where- 
upon the Cangrejo Commonwealth 
was set up as an independent state 
and a law to itself. 

By then they had one valuable 
addition to their bag of tricks — 
Elmer’s third great invention. It 
was a transmitter of beamed radio 
electric power, and they promptly 
entered into contracts with large 
industries in nearby America for 
the sale of unlimited broadcast 
power at ridiculously low rates. At 
first the great maritime powers pro- 
tested, suspecting what was afoot 



and fearing the incalculable effects 
on shipping if Caribbean Power 
meant to rob the sea of its weight. 
But the storm subsided • when the 
new republic assured them sea water 
would not be touched. They pledged 
themselves to draw only from the 
potential energy of the island they 
owned. So the world settled down 
and forgot its fears. No matter 
what happened to Cangrejo Key, 
there was the promise of abundant 
cheap power, and at the worst one 
coral islet more or less did not 
matter. Even if its sands did float 
off into the sky as had the canyon 
wall on the Pacific Coast they could 
do little harm, the Key being well 
off the air lanes. 

It was a premature hope, for they 
reckoned without the ingenuity of 
the men behind the scheme. Soon 
great derricks reared themselves on 




You skim off beards in swingtime, men. 

With Thin Gillette Blades— four for ten! 
Your fare looks well-groomed, feels top-grade. 
And you get lots more shaves per blade! 



Top Quality 
at Rock-Bottom Price 



Produced By The Maker Of The Famous Gillette Blue Blade 



TRICKY TONNAGE 



AST— 3S 



67 




the Key and drills began biting their 
way into the earth. By the time the 
holes reached eight miles depth the 
transmission towers were built and 
ready. Then came the flow of 
power, immense and seemingly in- 
exhaustible. A battery of kinetici- 
zer-dynamos commenced operat- 
ing, suspended by cables deep into 
the bowels of the planet, converting 
the weight that was overhead into 
kilowatts which were sent up to the 
surface through copper wires. 
There it was converted into radio 
power waves and broadcast out to 
the customers. It was good, clean 
power. Industry was grateful. 

How deep the syndicate eventu- 
ally sunk its shafts no one ever 
knew. Nor how many millions of 
tons of earth weight were converted 
into electric energy and spewed out 
to the factories of the world. But 
it took only a few years for the 
project to revolutionize modern 
economics. With power literally as 
cheap as air, coal holdings became 
worthless and petroleum nearly so. 
In the heydey of the power boom 
cities like New York went so far 
as to install outdoor heating units 
so that in the coldest of cold waves 
its citizens could still stroll about 
without overcoats. There was no 
point in conservation any more. 
Old- Terra Firma had gravitons to 
burn. 

The beginning of the payoff came 
with the Nassau disaster. The 
town was flattened by a mighty 
earthquake, and the attendant tidal 
wave left little of the Florida coastal 
cities. When the tremors died 

THE 

61 



down the British Empire found it 
had added another island of near 
continental size to its realm. The 
Bahama Bank had risen above water 
and then stood from ten to fifty feet 
above sea level throughout. But 
there was a rider attached to that 
dubious blessing. The bed of the 
Florida Straits had risen corres- 
pondingly and the current of the 
Gulf Stream diminished. Europeans 
began to worry about the effect of 
that upon their climate. 

Isostatic adjustment was respon- 
sible, sober geologists warned 
darkly. Let the Caribbean Power 
gang continue to rob that region of 
its proper weight there would be 
nothing to hold it down. Adjacent 
geographical masses would push in 
to fill the vacuum, just as the under- 
lying, restless, semifluid magma 
would push up. The time would 
soon come when mountains rivaling 
the Himalayas would rear loftily 
where the Bahama Bank had been 
and when that day came the other 
islands about it and the nearby 
continental areas might well be only 
shoal spots in a shallowing sea. The 
Republic of Cangrejo had to go. It 
was a matter for the new United 
Nations Court to decide. 

Well, that’s the story of Elmer 
Nicklheim’s kineticizer as I know it. 

I am still wondering whether he 
was with the gang the day the 
bombers came over and blasted 
Caribbean Power off the map. If 
he was, I think he must have been ' 
a prisoner, for the gang he at -last 
teamed up with turned out to be an 
arrogant, greedy lot. 

END. 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 




Firing Line 

by GEORGE O. SMITH 



Hellion Murdoch was on the loose, es- 
caped and deadly — and out to get Don 
Channmg. A top-rank gadgeteer on 
the loose , however, can be devastatmgly 
deadly himself — 



Illustrated by Orban 



Mark Kingman was surprised 
by the tapping on his windowpane. 
He thought that the window was 
unreachable from the outside — and 
then he realized that it was prob- 
ably someone throwing bits of dirt 
or small stones. But who would 
do that when the doorway was free 
for any bell-ringer? 

He shrugged, and went to the 
window to look out — and become 
cross-eyed as his eyes tried to cope 
with a single circle not more than 
ten inches distant. He could see 
the circle — and the lands on the in- 
side spiraling into the depths of the 
barrel, and a cold shiver ran up his 
spine from there to here. Behind 



the heavy automatic, a dark -com- 
plected man with a hawklike face 
grinned mirthlessly. 

Kingman stepped back and the 
stranger swung in and sat upon the 
windowsill. 

“Well?” asked the lawyer. 

“Is it well?” asked the stranger. 
“You know me?” 

“No. Never saw you before in 
my life? Is this a burglary?” 

“Nope. If it were, I’d have 
drilled you first so you couldn’t de- 
scribe me.” 

Kingman shuddered. The stran- 
ger looked as though he meant it. 

“In case you require an intro- 
duction,” said the hard-faced man, 



firing line 



“I’m Allison Murdoch.” 

“Hellion?” 

“None other.” 

“You were in jail — ” 

“I know. I’ve been there be- 
fore.” 

“But how did you escape?” 

“I’m a doctor of some repute,” 
said Hellion. “Or was, until my 
darker reputation exceeded my 
reputation for neural surgery. It 
was simple. I slit my arm and de- 
posited therein the contents of a 
cigarette. It swelled up like gan- 
grene and they removed me to the 
hospital. I removed a few guards 
and lit out in the ambulance. And 
I am here.” 

“Why?” Kingman then became 
thoughtful. “You’re not telling me 
this for mutual friendship, Mur- 
doch. What’s on your mind?” 
“You were in the clink, too. 
How did you get out?” 

“The court proceedings were un- 
der question for procedure. It was 
further ruled that — ” 

“I see. You bought your way 
out.” 

“I did not—” 

“Kingman, you’re a lawyer. A 
smart one, too.” 

“Thank you — ” 

“But you’re capable of buying 
your freedom, which you did. Fun- 
damentally, it makes no difference 
whether you bribe a guard to look 
the other way or bribe a jury to 
vote the other way. It’s bribery in 
either case.” 

Kingman smiled in a superior 
way. “With the very important 
difference that the latter means re- 
sults in absolute freedom. Bribing 

7 * 



a guard is freedom only so long as 
the law may be avoided.” 

“So you did bribe the jury?” 

“I did nothing of the sort. It 
was a ruling over a technicality that 
did me the favor.” 

“You created the technicality.” 
“Look,” said Kingman sharply. 
“You didn’t come here to steal by 
your own admission and your ex- 
cellent logic. You never saw, me 
before, and I do not know of you 
save what I’ve heard. Revenge for 
something real or fancied is obvi- 
ously no reason for this visit. I 
was charged with several kinds of 
larceny, which charges fell through 
and I was acquitted *)f them — 
which means that I did not commit 
them. I, therefore, am no criminal. 
On the other hand, you have a rec- 
ord. You were in jail, convicted, 
and you escaped by some means 
that may have included the act of 
first-degree murder. You came 
here for some reason, Murdoch. 
But let me tell you this: I am in 
no way required to explain the 
workings of my mind. If you ex- 
pect me to reveal some legal mach- 
ination by which I gained my 
freedom, you are mistaken. As far 
as the solar system is concerned, 
everything was legal and above 
board.” 

“I get it,” smiled Murdoch. 
“You’re untouchable.” 

“Precisely, And rightfully so.” 
“You’re the man I want, then.” 
“It isn’t mutual. I have no de- 
sire to be identified with a criminal 
of your caliber.” 

“What’s wrong with it?” asked 
Murdoch, 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION 



“It is fundamentally futile. You 
are not a brilliant criminal. You’ve 
been caught.” 

“I didn’t have the proper assist- 
ance. I shall not be caught again. 
Look,” he said suddenly, “how is 
your relationship with Venus Equi- 
lateral ?” 

Kingman gritted his teeth and 
made an animal noise. 

“I thought so. I have a score of 
my own to settle. But I need your 
help. Do I get it ?” 

“I can’t see how one of your cali- 
ber is capable — ” 

“Are you or aren’t you? Your 
answer may decide the duration of 
your life.” 

“You needn’t threaten. I’m will- 
ing to go to any lengths to get even 
with Channing and his crowd. But 
it must be good.” 

“I was beaten by a technical er- 
ror,” explained Murdoch. “The 
coating on my ship did it.” 

“How?” 

“They fired at me with a super 
electron-gun. A betatron. It hit 
me and disrupted the ship’s appa- 
ratus. The thing couldn’t have hap- 
pened if the standard space-finish 
hadn’t been applied to the Hippoc- 
rates.” 

“I’m not a technical man,” said 
Kingman. “Explain, please.” 

“The average ship is coated with 
a complex metallic oxide which 
among other things inhibits sec- 
ondary emission. Had we been run- 
ning a ship without this coating, 
the secondary emission would have 
left the Hippocrates in fair con- 
dition electronically, but the 'Relay 



Station would have received sev- 
eral times the electronic charge. But 
the coating accepted the terrific 
charge and prevented the normal 
urge of electrons to leave by sec- 
ondary emission — ” 

“What is secondary emission?” 
“When an electron hits at any 
velocity, it drives from one to as 
high as fifty electrons from the 
substance it hits. The quantity de- 
pends upon the velocity of the origi- 
nal electron, the charges on cathode 
and anode, the material from which 
the target is made, and so on. We 
soaked ’em in like a sponge and 
took it bad. But the next time, 
we’ll coat the ship with the oppo- 
site stuff. We’ll take a bit of 
Venus Equilateral for ourselves.” 

“I like the idea. But how ?” 
“We’ll try no frontal attack. 
Storming a citadel like Venus Equi- 
lateral is no child’s play, Kingman. 
As you know, they’re prepared for 
anything either legal or technical. 
I have a great respect for the com- 
bined abilities of Channing and 
Franks. I made my first mistake 
by giving them three days to make 
up their minds. In that time, they 
devised, tested, and approved an 
electron weapon of some power. 
Their use of it was as dangerous 
to them as it was to me — or would 
have been if I’d been prepared 
with a metallic-oxide coating of the 
proper type.” 

“Just what are you proposing?” 
asked Kingman. “I do not under- 
stand what you’re getting at.” 
“You are still one of the officials 
of Terran Electric?” 

“Naturally.” 



FIRING LINE 



71 



“You will be surprised to know 
that I hold considerable stock in 
that company.” 

“How, may I ask?” 

“The last time you bucked them, 
you did it on the market. You 
lost,” grinned Murdoch. “Proving 
that you haven’t a one hundred per- 
cent record either. Well, while 
Terran Electric was dragging its 
par value down around the twos 
and threes, I took a few shares.” 
“How do you stand?” 

“I rather imagine that I hold 
fifteen or twenty percent.” 

“That took money.” 

“I have money,” said Murdoch 
modestly. “Plenty of it. I should 
have grabbed more stock, but I fig- 
ured that between us we have 
enough to do as we please. What’s 
your holdings?” 

“I once held forty-one percent. 
They bilked me out of some of that. 
I have less than thirty percent.” 
“So we’ll run the market crazy 
again, and between us we’ll take off 
control. Then, Kingman, we’ll use 
Terran Electric to ruin Venus Equi- 
| lateral.” 

“Terran Electric isn’t too good 
a company now,” admitted King- 
man. “The public stays away in 
huge droves since we bucked In- 
terplanetary Communications. That 
bunch of electronic screwballs , has 
the public acclaim. They’re now 
i in solid since they opened person-to- 
person phone on the driver fre- 
{ quencies. You can talk to someone 
t in the Palanortis Country of Venus 
1 with the same quality and speak- 
| ability that you get in making a call 



from here to the house across the 
street.” 

“Terran Electric is about fin- 
ished,” said Murdoch flatly. “They 
shot their wad and lost. You’ll be 
bankrupt in a year, and you know 
it.” 

“That includes you, doesn’t it?” 
“Terran Electric is not the main- 
stay of my holdings,” smiled Mur- 
doch. “Under assumed names, I 
have picked up quite a few bits. 
Look, Kingman, I’m advocating pi- 
racy !” 

“Piracy ?” asked Kingman 
aghast. 

“Illegal piracy. But I’m intelli- 
gent. I realize that a pirate hasn’t 
a chance against civilization un- 
Jess he is as smart as they are. We 
need a research and construction 
organization, and that’s where Ter- 
ran Electric comes in. It’s an old 
company, well established. It’s now 
on the rocks. ’ We can build it up 
again. We’ll use it for a base, and 
set the research boys to figuring out 
the answers we need. Eventually 
we’ll control Venus Equilateral, and 
half of the enterprises throughout 
the system.” 

“And your main plan?” 

“You run Terran Electric, and 
I'll run the space piracy. Between 
us we’ll have the system over a bar- 
rel. Space craft are still run with- 
out weapons, and no weapons are 
suited for space fighting. But the 
new field opened up by the driver 
radiation energy may exhibit some- 
thing new in weapons. That’s what 
I want Terran Electric to work on.” 
“We’ll have to plan a bit more,” 
said Kingman thoughtfully. * “I’ll 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



cover you up, and eventually we’ll 
buy you out. Meanwhile we’ll go 
to work on the market and get con- 
trol of Terran Electric. And plan, 
too. It’ll have to be foolproof.” 

“It will be,” said Murdoch. 
“We’ll plan it that way.” 

“We’ll drink on it,” said King- 
man. 

“You’ll drink on it,” said Mur- 
doch. “I never touch the stuff. I 
still pride myself on my skill with a 
scalpel, and I do not care to lose it. 
Frankly, I hope to keep it long 
enough to uncover the metatarsal 
bones of one Donald Channing, Di- 
rector of Communications.” 

Kingman shuddered. At times, 
murder had passed through his 
mind when thinking of Channing. 
But this cruel idea of vivisecting 
an enemy indicated a sadism that 
was far beyond Kingman’s idea of 
revenge. Of course, Kingman 
never considered that ruining a 
man financially, reducing him to ab- 
solute dependency upon friends or 
government, when the man had 
spent his life in freedom and plenty 
— the latter gained by his ability 
under freedom — was cruel and in- 
human. 

And yet it would take a com- 
pletely dispassionate observer to tell 
which was worse; to ruin a man’s 
body or to ruin a man’s life. 

The man in question was oblivi- 
ous to these plans on his future. 
He was standing before a compli- 
cated maze of laboratory glassware 
and a haywire tangle of electronic 
origin. He looked it over in puz- 
zlement, and his lack of enthusiasm 



bothered the other man. Wesley 
Farrell thought that his boss would 
have been volubly glad to see the 
fruits of his labor. 

“No doubt it’s wonderful,” smiled 
Channing. “But what is it, Wes?” 
“Why, I’ve been working on an 
alloy that will not sustain an arc.” 
“Go on. I’m interested even 
though I do not climb the chande- 
lier and scream, beating my manly 
chest.” 

“Oil switches are cumbersome. 
Any other means of breaking con- 
tact is equally cumbersome if it is 
to handle much power. My alloy 
is non-arcing. It will not sustain 
an arc, even though the highest cur- 
rent and voltage are broken.” 

“Now I am really interested,” 
admitted Channing.- “Oil switches 
in a spaceship are a definite draw- 
back.” 

“I know. So — here we are.” 
“What’s the rest of this stuff?” 
asked Channing, laying a hand on 
the glassware. 

“Be careful !” said Farrell in con- 
cern. “That’s hot stuff.” 

“Oh?” 

“In order to get some real volt- 
ages and currents to break without 
running the main Station bus 
through here, I cooked this stuff up. 
The plate-grilleworks in the large 
tubes exhibit a capacity between 
them of about one microfarad. 
Empty, that is, or I should say pre- 
cisely point nine eight microfarads 
in vacuuo. The fluid is of my own 
devising, concocted for the occa- 
sion, and has a dielectric constant 
of thirteen times ten to the sixth 
power. It — ” 



FI KINO LINE 



7* 



“Great Howling Rockets !” ex- 
ploded Channing. “That makes the 
overall capacity equal to thirteen 
farads!” 

“Just about. Well, I have the 
condenser charged to three kilo- 
volts, and then I discharge it 
through this switch made of the 
non-arcing alloy. Watch! No, 
Don, from back here, please, be- 
hind this safety glass.” 

Channing made some discomfort- 
ing calculations about thirteen 
farads at three thousand volts 
charge and decided that there was 
something definitely unlucky about 
the number thirteen. 

“The switch, now,” continued 
Farrell, as though thirteen farads 
was just a mere drop in the bucket, 
“is opened four milliseconds after 
it is closed. The time-constant of 
the discharging resistance is such 
that the voltage is point eight three, 
of its peak three thousand volts, 
giving a good check of the alloy.” 
“I should think so,” groused 
Channing. “Eighty-three percent 
of three thousand volts is just shy 
of twenty-five hundred volts. The 
current of discharge passing 
through a circuit that will drop the 
charge in a thirteen farad condenser 
eighty-three percent in four milli- 
seconds will be something fierce, be- 
lieve me.” 

“That is why I use the heavy bus- 
bars from the condenser bank 
through the switch.” 

“I get it. Go ahead, Wes. I 
want to see this non-arcing switch 
of yours perform.” 

Farrell checked the meters, and 
then said “Now !” and punched the 

74 



switch at his side. Across the room 
a solenoid drove the special alloy 
bar between two clamps of similar 
metal. Almost immediately, four 
thousandths of a second later, to be 
exact, the solenoid reacted auto- 
matically and the no-arc alloy was 
withdrawn. A minute spark flashed 
briefly between the contacts. 

“And that is that,” said Chan- 
ning, slightly dazed by the magni- 
tude of it all, and the utter sim- 
plicity of the effects. “But look, 
Wes, may I ask you a favor? 
Please discharge that infernal ma- 
chine and drain that electrolyte out. 
Then make the thing up in a tool- 
steel case and seal it. Also hang on 
busbars right at the plates them- 
selves, and slap a peak-voltage fuse 
across the terminals. One that will 
close at anything above three thou - 
sand volts. Follow me?” 

“I think so. But that is not the 
main point of interest — ” 

“I know,” grinned Channing, 
mopping his forehead. “The non- 
arc is. But that fragile glassware 
makes me as jittery as a Mexican 
jumping bean.” 

“But why?” 

“Wes, if that glassware fractures 
somewhere, and that electrolyte 
drools out, you'll have a condenser 
of one microfarad — charged to thir- 
teen million times three thousand 
volts. Or, in nice, hollow, round 
numbers, forty billion volts! Four 
times ten to the tenth. Of course, 
it won’t get that far. It’ll arc 
across the contacts before it gets 
that high, but it might raise par- 
ticular hell on the way out. Take it 
easy, Wes. We’re seventy million- 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION 



odd miles from the nearest large 
body of dirt, all collected in a little 
steel bottle about three miles long 
and a mile in diameter. I’d hate to 
stop all interplanetary communica- 
tions while we scraped ourselves off 
of the various walls and treated our- 
selves for electric shock. It would 
— the discharge itself, I mean — 
raise hell with the equipment any- 
way. So play it easy, Wes. We 
do not permit certain experiments 
out here because of the slow neu- 
trons that sort of wander through 
here at fair density. Likewise, we- 
cannot permit dangerous experi- 
ments. And anything that includes 
a dangerous experiment must be 
out, too.” 

“Oh,” said Wes. His voice and 
attitude were together crestfallen. 

“Don’t take it so hard, fella,” 
grinned Channing. “Anytime we 
have to indulge in dangerous ex- 
periments, we always do it with an 
assistant — and in one of the blister- 
laboratories. But take that fragile 
glassware out of the picture and 
I’ll buy it,” he finished. 

Walt Franks entered and asked 
what was going on. 

“Wes was just demonstrating the 
latest equipment in concentrated 
deviltry,” smiled Channing. 

“That’s my department,” said 
Walt. 

“Oh, it’s nojt as bad as your 
stuff,” said Channing. “What he’s 
got here is an alloy that will break 
several million watts without an arc. 
Great stuff, Walt.” 

“Sounds swell,” said Walt. “Bet- 
ter scribble it up and we’ll get a 

FIRING LINE 



patent. It sounds useful.” 

“I think it may bring us a bit of 
change,” said Channing. “It’s great 
stuff, Wes.” 

“Thanks. It annoyed me to see 
those terrific oil-breakers we have 
here. All I wanted to do was to 
replace ’em with something smaller 
and more efficient.” 

“You did, Wes. And that isn't 
all. How did you dream up that 
high-dielectric?” , 

“Applied several of the physical 
phenomena.” 

“That’s a good bet, too. We can 
use several fluids of various dielec- 
tric constants. Can you make solids 
as well?” 

“Not as easily. But I can try — ?” . 
“Go ahead and note anything you 
find above the present, listed com- 
pounds and their values.” 

“I’ll list everything, as I always 
do.” 

“Good. And the first thing to do 
is to can that stuff in a steel case.” 
“It’ll have to be plastalloy.” 
“That’s as strong as steel and 
nonconducting. Go ahead.” 

Channing led Franks from the 
laboratory, and once outside Chan- 
ning gave way to a session of the 
shakes. “Walt,” he asked plain- 
tively, “take me by the hand and 
lead me to Joe’s. I need some vita- 
mins.” 

“Bad?” 

“Did you see that glassblower’s 
nightmare ?” 

“You mean that collection of cut 
glass?” grinned Walt. “Uh-huh. 
It looked as though it were about 
to collapse of its own dead weight.” 
“That held an electrolyte of di- 

75 



electric constant thirteen times ten 
to the sixth. He had it charged to 
a mere three thousand volts. Ye 
Gods, Walt. Thirteen farads at 
three KV. Whew. And when he 
discharged it, the confounded leads 
that went through the glass side- 
walls to the condenser plates posi- 
tively glowed in the cherry red. I 
swear it!” 

“He’s like that,” said Walt. “You 
shouldn’t worry about him. He’ll 
have built that condenser out of 
good stuff — the leads will be al- 
loys like those we use in the bigger 
tubes. They wouldn’t fracture the 
glass seals no matter what the tem- 
perature difference between them 
and the glass was. Having that al- 
loy around the place — up in the 
tube -maintenance department they 
have a half ton of quarter-inch rod 
■ — he’d use it naturally.” 

“Could be, Walt. Maybe I’m a 
worry wart.” 

“You’re not used to working with 
his kind.” 

“I quote : ‘Requiring a high volt- 
age source of considerable current 
capacity, I hit upon the scheme of 
making a super-high capacity con- 
denser and discharging it through 
my no-arc alloy. To do this it was 
necessary that I invent a dielectric 
material of C equals thirteen times 
ten to the sixth.’ Unquote.” 

“Wes is a pure scientist," re- 
minded Walt. “If he were investi- 
gating the electrical properties of 
zinc, and required solar power mag- 
nitudes to complete his investiga- 
tion, he’d invent it and then include 
it as incidental to the investigation 
on zinc. He’s never really under- 

,3«. 



stood our recent divergence in pur- 
pose over the power tube. That we 
should make it soak up power from 
Sol was incidental and useful only 
as a lever or means to make Terran 
Electric give us our way. He’d 
have forgotten it, I’ll bet, since it 
was not the ultimate goal of the in- 
vestigation.” 

“He knows his stuff, though.” 

“Granted. Wes is brilliant. He 
is a physicist, though, and neither 
engineer nor inventor. I doubt that 
he is really interested in the practi- 
cal aspects of anything that is not 
directly concerned with his eating 
and sleeping.” 

“What are we going to do about 
him ?” 

“Absolutely nothing. You aren’t 
like him — ” 

“I hope not.” 

“And conversely, why should we 
try to make him like you ?” 

“That I’m against !” chimed in a 
new voice. Arden Channing took 
each man by the arm and looked up 
on either side of her, into one face 
and then the other. “No matter 
how, why, when, who, or what, one 
like him is all that the solar system 
can stand.” 

“Walt and I are pretty much 
alike.” 

“Uh-huh. You are. That’s as it 
should be. You balance one an- 
other nicely. You couldn’t use an- 
other like you. You’re speaking of 
Wes Farrell?” 

“Right.” 

“Leave him alone,” said Arden 
sagely. “He’s good as he is. To 
make him similar to you would be to 
spoil a good man. He’d then be 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



neither fish, flesh, nor fowl. He 
doesn’t think as you do, but instead 
proceeds in a straight line from re- 
mote possibility to foregone conclu- 
sion. Anything that gets needed en 
route is used, or gadgeteered and 
forgotten. That’s where you come 
in, fellows. Inspect his by-prod- 
ucts. They may be darned useful.” 
“O. K. Anybody care for a 
drink?” 

“Yup. All of us,” said Arden. 
"Don, how did you rate such a 
good-looking wife?” 

‘‘I hired her,” grinned Channing. 
"She used to make all my steno- 
graphic mistakes, remember?” 

“And gave up numerous small 
errors for one large one ? Uh-huh. 
I recall. Some luck.” 

"It was my charm.” 

“Baloney. Arden, tell the truth. 
Didn’t he threaten you with some- 
thing terrible if you didn’t marry 
him ?” 

"You tell him,” grinned Chan- 
ning. “I’ve got work to do.” 

Channing left the establishment 
known as Joe’s and advertised as 
the “Best bar in twenty-seven mil- 
lion miles, minimum,” and made his 
way toward his office slowly. He 
didn’t reach it. Not right away. 
He was' intercepted by Charley 
Thomas who invited him to view a 
small experiment. Channing smiled 
and said that he’d prefer to see an 
experiment of any kind to going to 
his office, and followed Charley. 

“You recall the gadget we use to 
get perfect tuning with the alloy- 
selectivity transmitter ?” 

"You mean that variable alloy 



disk all bottled up and rotated with 
a selsyn?” asked Don, wondering 
what came next. "Naturally I re- 
member it. Why?” 

“Well, we’ve found that certain 
submicroscopic effects occur with 
inert objects. What I mean is this: 
Given a chunk of cold steel of 
goodly mass and tune your alloy- 
disk to pure steel, and you can get 
a few micro-microamperes output 
if the tube is pointed at the object.” 
“Sounds interesting. How much 
amplification do you need to get this 
reading and how do you make it 
tick?” 

“We run the amplifier up to the 
limit and then sweep the tube across 
the object sought, and the output 
meter leaps skyward by just enough 
to make us certain of our results. 
Watch !” 

Charley set the tube in operation 
and checked it briefly. Then he 
took Don’s hand and put it on the 
handle that swung the tube on its 
gimbals. “Sort of paint the wall 
with it,” he said. “You’ll see the 
deflection as you pass the slab of 
tool steel that’s standing there.” 
Channing did, and watched the 
minute flicker of the ultra-sensitive 
meter. “Wonderful,” he grinned, 
as the door opened and Franks en- 
tered. 

“Hi, Don. Is it true that you 
bombarded her with flowers?” 
“Nope. She’s just building up 
some other woman’s chances. Have 
you seen this effect?” 

“Yeah — it’s wonderful, isn’t it?” 
“That’s what I like about this 
place,” said Charley with a huge 
smile. “That’s approximately seven 



FIRING MNE 



77 



micro-microamperes output after 
amplification on the order of two 
hundred million times. We’re 
either working on something so 
small we can’t see it or something 
so big we can’t count it. It’s either 
fifteen decimal places to the left or 
to the right. Every night when I 
go home, I say a little prayer. I 
say: ‘Dear God, please let me find 
something today that is based upon 
unity, or at least no more than two 
decimal places’ but it is no good. 
If He hears me at all, He’s too 
busy to bother with things that the 
human race classifies as ‘One.’ ” 
“How do you classify resistance, 
current, and voltage?” asked Chan- 
ning, manipulating the tube on its 



gimbals and watching the effect. 

“One million volts across ten 
megohms equals one hundred thou- 
sand microamperes. That's accord- 
ing to Ohm’s Law.” 

“He’s got the zero-madness too,” 
chuckled Walt, “it obtains from 
thinking in astronomical distances, 
with interplanetary coverages in 
watts, and celestial input, and stuff 
like that. Don, this thing may be 
handy, some day. I’d like to de- 
velop it.” 

“I suggest that couple of stages 
of tube-amplification might help. 
Amplify it before transduction into 
electronic propagation.” 

“We can get four or five stages of 
sub-electronic amplification, I think. 




7* 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION 





It’ll tike some working.” 

“O. K., Charley. Cook ahead. 
We do not know whither we are 
heading, but it looks darned inter- 
esting.” 

“Yeah,” added Walt, “it’s a 
darned rare scientific fact that 
can’t be used for something, some- 
where. Well, Don, now what?” 

“I guess we now progress to the 
office and run through a few reams 
of paper-work. Then we may re- 
lax.” 

“O. K. Sounds good to me. 
Let’s go.” 

Hellion Murdoch pointed to the 
luminous speck in the celestial 
globe. His finger stabbed at the 
marker button, and a series of faint 
concentric spheres marked the dis- 
tance from the center of the globe 
to the object, which Murdoch read 
and mentioned : “Twelve thousand 
miles.” 

“Asteroid?” asked Kingman. 

“What else?” asked Murdoch. 
“We’re lying next to the Asteroid 
Belt.” 

“What are you going to do?” 

“Burn it,” said Murdoch. His 
fingers danced upon the keyboard, 
and high above him, in the dome 
of the Black Widow, a power in- 
take tube swiveled and pointed at 
Sol. Coupled to the output of the 
power intake tube, a power output 
tube turned to point at the asteroid. 
And Murdoch’s poised finger came 
down on the last switch, closing the 
final circuit. 

Meters leaped tip across their 
scales as the intangible beam of 
solar energy came silently in and 



went as silently out. It passed 
across the intervening miles with 
the velocity of light squared, and hit 
the asteroid. A second later the 
asteroid glowed and melted under 
the terrific bombardment of solar 
energy directed in a tight beam. 

“It’s O. K„” said Hellion. “But 
have the gang build us three larger 
tubes to be mounted turret wise. 
Then we can cope with society.” 

“What do you hope to gain by 
that? Surely piracy and grand lar- 
ceny are not profitable in the light 
of what we have and know.” 

“I intend to institute a reign of 
terror.” 

“You mean to go through with 
your plan ?” 

“I am a man of my word. 1 shall 
levy a tax against each and every 
ship leaving any spaceport. We 
shall demand one dollar solarian 
for every gross ton that lifts from 
any planet and reaches the plan- 
etary limit.” 

“How do you establish that 
limit?” asked Kingman interest- 
edly. 

“Ironically, we’ll use the Chan- 
ning Layer,” said Murdoch with 
dark humor. “Since the Channing 
Layer describes the boundary be- 
low which our solar beam will not 
work. Our reign of terror will be 
identified with Channing because of 
that; it will take some of the praise 
out of people’s minds when they 
think of Channing and Interplan- 
etary Communications.” 

“That’s pretty deep psychology,” 
said Kingman. 

“You should recognize it,” smiled 
Murdoch. “That’s the kind of stuff 



FIRING MNK 



79 



yon legal lights pull. Mention the 
accused in the same sentence with 
one of the honored people; mention 
the defendant in the same breath 
with one of the hated people — it’s 
the same stunt. Build them up or 
tear them down by reference.” 

“You’re pretty shrewd.” 

“1 am,” agreed Murdoch pla- 
cidly. 

“Mind telling me how you found 
yourself in the fix you’re in?” 

“Not at all. I’ve been interested 
for years in neuro-surgery. My re- 
searches passed beyond the realm of 
rabbits and monkeys, and I found 
it necessary to investigate the more 
delicate, more organized, the higher- 
strung. That means human beings 
— though some of them are less 
sensitive than a rabbit and less deli- 
cate than a monkey.” Murdoch’s 
eyes took on a cynical expression at 
this. Then it passed and he con- 
tinued : “I became famous, as you 
know. Or do you?” 

Kingman shook his head. 

“I suppose not. I became fa- 
mous in my own circle. Lesser 
neuro-surgeons sent their complex 
cases to me; unless you were com- 
plex, you would never hear of Al- 
lison Murdoch. Well anyway, some 
of them offered exciting opportuni- 
ties. I — frankly, experimented. 

Some of them died. It was quite a 
bit of cut and try because not too 
much has been written on the finer 
points of the nervous system. But 
there were too few people who 
were complex enough to require my 
services, and I turned to clinical 
work, and experimented freely.” 



“And there you made your mis- 
take ?” 

“Do you know how ?” 

“No. I imagine that with many 
patients you exceeded your rights 
once too often.” 

“Wrong. It is a funny factor in 
human relationship. Something 
that makes no sense. When people 
were paying me three thousand dol- 
lars an hour for operations, I could 
experiment without fear. Some 
died, some regained their health un- 
der my ministrations. But when I 
experimented on charity patients, I 
could not experiment because of the 
‘Protection’ given the poor. The 
masses were not to be guinea pigs. 
Ha!” laughed Murdoch, “only the 
rich are permitted to be subjects of 
an experiment. Touch not the poor, 
who offer nothing. Experiment 
upon those of intellect, wealth, 
fame, or anything that sets them 
above the mob. Yes, even genius 
came under my knife. But I couldn’t 
give a poor man a fifty-fifty chance 
at his life, when the chances of his 
life were less than one in ten. From 
a brilliant man, operating under 
fifty-fifty chances for life, I be- 
came an inhuman monster that cut 
without fear. I was imprisoned, 
and later escaped with some 
friends.” 

“And that’s when you stole the 
Hippocrates and decided that the 
solar system should pay you re- 
venge-money ?” 

“I would have done better if I 
had not made that one mistake. I 
forgot that in the years of imprison- 
ment, I fell behind in scientific 
knowledge. I know - now that no 



so 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



one can establish anything at all 
without technical minds behind 
him.” 

Kingman’s lips curled. “I 
wouldn’t agree to that.” 

“You should. Your last defeat 
at the hands of the technicians you 
scorn should have taught you a les- 
son. If you had been sharp, you 
would have outguessed them; out- 
engineered them. They, Kingman, 
were not afraid to rip into their de- 
tector to see what made it tick.” 
“But I had only the one — ” 
“They knew one simple thing 
about the universe. That rule is 
that if anything works once, it may 
be made to work again.” He held 
up his hand as Kingman started to 
speak. “You’ll bring all sorts of 
cases to hand and try to disprove 
me. You can’t. Oh, you couldn’t 
cause a quick return of the diplo- 
docus, or re-enact the founding of 
the solar government, or even re- 
burn a ton of coal. But there is 
other carbon, there will be other 
governmental introductions and re- 
forms, and there may some day be 
the rebirth of the dinosaur — on 
some planet there may be carbonif- 
erous ages now. Any phenomena 
that is a true phenomena — and your 
detector was definite, not a misin- 
terpretation of effect — can be re- 
peated. But, Kingman, we’ll not 
be outengineered again.” 

“That I do believe.” 

“And so we will have our re- 
venge on Interplanetary Communi- 
cations and upon the system itself.” 
“We’re heading home now?” 
“Right. We want this ship fitted 



with the triple turret I mentioned 
before. Also I want the intercon- 
necting links between the solar in- 
take and the power-projectors 
beefed up. When you’re passing 
several hundred megawatts through 
any system, losses of the nature of 
.000,000,1% cause heating to a dan- 
gerous degree. We’ve got to cut 
the I 2 R losses. I gave orders that 
the turret be started, by the way. 
It’ll be almost ready when we re- 
turn.” 

“ You gave orders?” said King- 
man. 

“Oh yes,” said Hellion Murdoch 
with a laugh. “Remember our last 
bout with the stock market? I 
seem to have accumulated about 
forty-seven percent. That’s suffi- 
cient to give me control of our 
company.” 

“But . . . but — ” spluttered King- 
man. “That took money — ” 

“I still have enough left,” said 
Murdoch quietly. “After all, I 
spent years in the Melanortis Coun- 
try of Venus. I was working on 
the Hippocrates when I wasn’t do- 
ing a bit of mining. There’s a large 
vein of platiniridium there. You 
may answer the rest.” 

“I still do not get this piracy.” 
Murdoch’s eyes blazed. “That’s 
my interest. That’s my revenge! 
I intend to ruin Don Channing and 
Venus Equilateral. With the super 
turret they’ll never be able to catch 
us, and we’ll run the entire system.” 
Kingman considered. As a law- 
yer, he was finished. His last try 
at the ruination of the Venus Equi- 
lateral crowd by means of pirating 
the interplanetary communications 



flRINO LINK 



beam, well that was strictly a viola- 
tion of the Communications Code. 
The latter absolutely prevented any 
man or group of men from divert- 
ing communications not intended 
for them and using these communi- 
cations for their own purpose. His 
defense that Venus Equilateral had 
also violated the law went unheard. 
It was pointed out to him that Venus 
Equilateral tapped his own line, and 
the tapping of an illegal line was 
the act of a comfnunications agent 
in the interest of the government. 
He was no longer a lawyer, and in 
tact he had escaped a long jail term 
by sheer bribery. 

He was barred from legal prac- 
tice, and he was barred from any 
business transactions. The stock 
market could be manipulated, but 
only through a blind, which was 
neither profitable nor safe. 

His holdings in Terran Electric 
was all that stood between him and 
ruin. He was no better off than 
Murdoch, save that he was not 
wanted. 

But — 

“I’m going to remain on Terra 
and run Terran Electric like a model 
company,” he said. “That’ll be our 
base.” 

“Right. Except for a bit of re- 
search along specified lines, you will 
do nothing. Your job will be to 
act apologetic for your misdeeds. 
You will grovel on the floor before 
any authority, and beseech the legal 
profession to accept you once more. 
T will need your help, there. You 
are to establish yourself in the good 
graces of the Interplanetary Patent 
Office and report to me any applica- 
nt 



tions that may be of interest. The 
research that Terran Electric will 
conduct will be along innocuous 
lines. The real research will be 
conducted in a secret laboratory. 
The one in the Melanortis Country. 
Selected men will work there, and 
the Terran Electric fleet of cargo- 
carriers will carry the material 
needed. My main failure was not 
to have provided a means of know- 
ing what the worlds were doing. 
I’ll have that now, and I shall not be 
defeated again.” 

“We’ll say that one together!” 
said Kingman. He flipped open a 
large book and set the autopilot 
from a set of figures. The Black 
Widow turned gently and started to 
run for Terra at 2-G. 

Walt Franks frowned at the 
memorandum in his hand. “Look, 
Don, are we ever going to get to 
work on that deal with Keg John- 
son ?” 

“Uh-huh,” answered Don, with- 
out looking up. 

“He’s serious. Transplanet is 
getting the edge, and he doesn’t 
like it.” 

“Frankly, I don’t like dabbling in 
stuff like that either. But Keg’s 
an old friend, and I suppose that’s 
how a guy gets all glommed up on 
projects, big business deals, and so 
forth. We’ll be going in directly. 
Why the rush?” 

“A bit of personal business on 
Mars which can best be done at the 
same time, thus saving an addi- 
tional trip.” 

“O. K.,” said Don idly. “Might 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE -PICT ION 



as well get it over with. Can you 
pack in an hour?” 

“Sure. I’ll be there.” 

Actually, it was less than an hour 
before the Relay Girl went out of 
the South End Landing Stage, 
turned, and headed for Mars. 
Packing to the Charmings was a 
matter of persuading Arden not to 
take everything but the drapes in 
the apartment along with her, while 
for Walt Franks it was a matter of 
grabbing a trunkful of instruments 
and spare parts. Space travel is a 
matter of waiting for days in the 
confines of a small bubble of steel. 
Just waiting. For the scenery is 
unchanging all the way from Sol to 
Pluto — and is the same scenery that 
can be seen from the viewports of 
Venus Equilateral. Walt enjoyed 
his waiting time by tinkering; hav- 
ing nothing to do would have bored 
him, and so he took with him 
enough to keep him busy during the 
trip. 

At two" Terran gravities, the 
velocity of the Relay Girl built up 
bit by bit and mile by mile until 
they were going just shy of one 
thousand miles per second. This 
occurred an hour before turnover, 
which would take place at the 
twenty-third hour of flight. 

And at that time there occurred 
a rarity. Not an impossibility like 
the chances of collision with a me- 
teor, those things happen only once 
in a lifetime, and Channing had had 
his collision. Nor was it as remote 
as getting a royal flush on the deal. 
It happened, not often, but it did 
happen to some ships occasionally. 



Another ship passed within de- 
tector range. 

The celestial globe glimmered 
faintly and showed a minute point 
at extreme range. Automatic 
marker spheres appeared concentri- 
cally within the celestial globe and 
colures and diameters marked the 
globe off into octants. A dim red 
line appeared before the object, 
giving the probable course of the 
object. 

Bells rang briefly, and the auto- 
matic meteor circuits interpreted the 
orbit of the oncoming object and 
decided that the object was not dan- 
gerous. Then they relaxed. Their 
work was done until another ob- 
ject came within range for them to 
inspect. They were no longer in- 
terested, and they forgot about the 
object with the same powers of com- 
plete oblivion that they would have 
exerted on a meteor of niekle and 
iron. 

They were mechanically in- 
capable of original thought. So the 
object, to them, was harmless. 

Channing looked up at the lumi- 
nescent spot, sought the calibration 
spheres, made a casual obesrvation, 
and forgot about it. To him it was 
a harmless meteor. 

Even the fact that his own ve- 
locity was a thousand miles per 
second, and the object’s velocity 
was the same, coming to them on a 
one hundred and seventy degree 
course and due to pass within five 
thousand miles did not register. 
Their total velocity of two thou- 
sand miles did not register just be- 
cause of that rarity with which ships 
pass within detector range, while 

as 



FIRING GINB 



meteors are encountered often. 

Had Channing been thinking 
about the subject in earnest, he 
would have known — for it is only 
man, with all too little time, who 
uses such velocities. The universe, 
with eternity in which to work her 
miracle, seldom moves in velocities 
greater than forty or fifty miles per 
second. 

Channing forgot it, and as the 
marker-spheres switched to accom- 
modate the approaching object, he 
turned to more important things. 

In the other ship, Hellion Mur- 
doch frowned. He brightened, 
then, and depressed the plunger 
that energized his solar beam and 
projector. He did not recognize 
the oncoming object for anything 
but a meteor, either, and his desire 
was to find out how his invention 
worked at top speeds. 

Kingman asked: “Another one?” 
“Uh-huh,” said Murdoch idly, 
“1 want to check my finders.” 

“But they can’t miss.” 

“No? Look, lawyer, you’re not 
running a job that may be given a 
stay or a reprieve. The finders run 
on light velocities. The solar beam 
runs on the speed of light squared. 
We’ll pass that thing at five thou- 
sand miles and at two thousand ac- 
cumulative miles per second. A 
microsecond of misalignment, and 
we’re missing, see? I think we’re 
going to be forced to put correction 
circuits in so that the vector sums 
and velocities and distances will all 
come out with a true hit. It will 
not be like sighting down a search- 
light beam at high velocity.” 



“I see. You’ll need compensa- 
tion ?” 

“Plenty, at this velocity and dis- 
tance. This is the first time I’ve 
had a chance to try it out.” 

The latter fact saved the Relay 
Girl. By a mere matter of feet, and 
inches ; by the difference between the 
speed of light and the speed of light 
squared at a distance of five thou- 
sand miles, plus a slight miscom- 
pensation. The intolerably hot um- 
bra of Murdoch’s beam followed 
below the pilot’s greenhouse of the 
Relay Girl all the way past, a matter 
of several seconds. The spill-over 
was tangible enough to warm the 
Relay Girl to uncomfortable tem- 
peratures. 

Then with no real damage done, 
the contact with ships in space was 
over, but not without a certain mini- 
mum of recognition. 

“Hell!” said Kingman. “That 
was a space craft.” 

“Who?” 

“I don’t know. You missed.” 

“I’d rather have hit,” said Mur- 
doch coldly. "I hope I missed by 
plenty.” 

“Why?” 

“If we scorched their tails any, 
there’ll be embarrassing questions 
asked.” 

“So— ?” 

“So nothing until we’re asked. 
Even then you know nothing.” 

In the Relay Girl, Channing 
mopped his forehead. “That was 
hell itself,” he said. 

Arden laughed uncertainly. “I 
thought that it would wait until we 






ASTOUNDING SO IE NCE-FICT ION 



got there; I didn’t expect hell to 
come after us.” 

“What — exactly — happened?” 
asked Walt, coming into the scan- 
ning room. 

“That — was a spaceship." 

“One of this system’s?” 

“I wonder,” said Don honestly. 
“It makes a guy wonder. It was 
gone too fast to make certain. It 
probably was Solarian, but they 
tried to burn us with something.” 
“That makes it sound like some- 
thing alien,” admitted Walt. “But 
that doesn’t make good sense.” 

“It makes good reading,” laughed 
Channing. “Walt, you’re the Boy 
Edison. Have you been tinkering 
with anything of lethal leanings?” 
“You think there may be some- 
thing powerful afloat?” 

“Could be. We don’t know every- 
thing.” 

“I’ve toyed with the idea of 
coupling a solar intake beam with 
one of those tubes that Baler and 
Carroll found. Recall, they smashed 
up quite a bit of Lincoln Head 
before they uncovered the secret of 
how to handle it. Now that we 
have unlimited power — or are lim- 
ited only by the losses in our own 
system — we could, or should be 
able to, make something rawther 
tough.” 

“You’ve toyed with the idea, 
hey ?” 

“Uh-huh.” 

“Of course you haven’t really 
tried it?” 

“Of course not.” 

“How did it work?” 

“Fair,” grinned Walt. “I did it 
witli miniatures only, «-ot course, 



since I couldn’t get my hooks on a 
full-grown tube.” 

“Say,” asked Arden, “how did 
you birds arrive at this idea so 
suddenly? I got lost at the first 
premise.” 

“We passed a strange ship. We 
heated up to uncomfortable tem- 
peratures in a matter of nine sec- 
onds flatC" They didn’t warm us 
with thought waves, or vector-in- 
vectives. Sheer dislike wouldn’t do 
it alone. I guess that someone is 
trying to do the trick started by our 
esteemed Mr. Franks here a year or 
so ago. Only with something prac- 
tical instead of an electron beam. 
Honest-to-goodness energy, right 
from Sol himself, funneled through 
some tricky inventions. Walt, that 
experiment of yours. Did you 
bring it along?” 

Walt looked downcast. “No,” 
he said. “It was another one.” 
“Let’s see.” 

“It’s not too good — ” 

“Same idea?” 

Walt went to get his experiment. 
He returned with a tray full of 
laboratory glassware, all wired into 
a maze of electronic equipment. 

Channing went white. “You, 
too?” he yelled. . 

“Take it easy, sport. This 
charges only to a hundred volts. 
We get thirteen hundred micro- 
farads at one hundred volts. Then 
we drain off the dielectric fluid, and 
get one billion three hundred million 
volts charge in a condenser of only 
one hundred micro-microfarads- 
It’s an idea for the nuclear physics 
boys. I think it may tend to so- 
lidify some of the uncontrollables 



PIKING LINE 



85 



in the present system of developing 
high electron velocities.” 

“That thirteen million dielectric 
constant stuff is strictly electro- 
dynamite, I think,” said Charming. 
“Farrell may have developed it as 
a by-product, but I have a hunch 
that it will replace some heretofore 
valuable equipment. The Franks- 
Farrell generator will outdo Van- 
Der Graf’s little job, I think.” 
“Franks-Farrell ?” 

“Sure. Fie thunk up the dielec- 
tric. You thunk up the applica- 
tion. Fie won’t care, and you 
couldn’t have done it without. Fol- 
low?” 

“Oh sure. I was just trying to 
figure out a more generic term for 
it.” 

“Don’t. Let it go as is for now. 
It’s slick, Walt, but there’s no 
weapon in it.” 

"You're looking for a weapon?” 
“Uh-huh. Ever since Murdoch 
took a swing at Venus Equilateral, 
I’ve been sort of wishing that we 
could concoct something big enough 
and dangerous enough to keep us 
free from any other wiseacres. Re- 
member, we stand out there like a 
sore thumb. We are as vulnerable 
as a half pound of butter at a ban- 
quet for starving Armenians. The 
next screwball that wants to control 
the system will have to control 
Venus Equilateral first. And the 
best things we can concoct to date 
include projectile-tossing guns at 
velocities of less than the speed of 
our ships, and an electron-shooter 
that can be overcome by coating the 
ship with any of the metal-salts that 
enhance secondary emission.” 



“Remind me to requisition a set 
of full-sized tubes when we return. 
Might as well have some fun.” 

“O. K., you can have ’em. Which 
brings us back to the present. Ques- 
tion: Was that an abortive attempt 
upon our ship* 1 or was that a mis- 
taken try at melting a meteor?” 

“I know how to find out. Let’s 
call Charley Thomas and have him 
get on the rails. We can have him 
request Terran Electric to give us 
any information they may have on 
energy beams to date.” 

“They’d tell you?” scorned Ar- 
den. 

“If they write no!, and we find 
out that they did, we’ll sue ’em 
dead. They’re too shaky to try 
anything deep right now.” 

“Going to make it an official re- 
quest, hey?” 

“Right. From the Station, it’ll 
go out in print, and their answer 
will be on the ’type, too, since busi- 
ness etiquette requires it. They’ll 
get the implication if they’re on the 
losing end. That’ll make ’em try 
something slick. If they’re honest, 
they’ll tell all.” 

“That’ll do it all right,” said 
Walt. “They’re too shaky to buck 
us any more. And if they are try- 
ing anything, it’ll show.” 

The rest of the trip was without 
incident. They put in at Canalopsis 
and found Keg Johnson with an of- 
ficial ’gram waiting for them. Don 
Channing ripped it open and read : 

Interplanetary Communications 
Attention Dr. Channing: 

No project for energy beam capable of 
removing meteors under way at Terran 



ea 



-Astounding science-fiction 



Electric, or at any of the subsidiary com- 
panies. Ideas suggested along these lines 
have been disproven by your abortive at- 
tempt of a year ago, and will not be con- 
sidered unless theory is substantiated in 
every way by practical evidence. 

If you are interested, we will delve 
into the subject from all angles. Please 
advise. 

Terran Electric Co. 

Board of Legal Operations 

Mark Kingman, LLD. 

Channing smiled wryly at Keg 
Johnson and told him of their trou- 
ble. 

“Oh?” said Keg, with a frown. 
“Then you haven’t heard?” 

“Heard what?” 

“Hellion Murdoch has been on 
the lose for weeks.” 

“Weeks!” yelled Channing. 

“Uh-huh. He feigned gangrene, 
was taken to the base hospital where 
he raised hob in his own, inimitable 
way. He blasted the communica- 
tions set-up completely, ruined three 
spaceships, and made off with the 
fourth. The contact ship just 
touched there recently and found 
hell brewing. If they hadn’t had a 
load of. supplies and prisoners for 
the place, they wouldn’t have known 
about it for months, perhaps.” 

“So! Brother Murdoch is loose 
again. Well! The story dovetails 
in nicely.” 

“You think that was Hellion him- 
self?” 

“I’d bet money on it. The official 
report on Hellion Murdoch said 
that he was suffering from a very 
silght peresecution complex, and 
that he was capable of making 
something of it if he got the chance. 



He’s slightly whacky, and danger- 
ously so.” 

“He’s a brilliant man, isn’t he?” 
“Quite. His name is well known 
in the circles of neuro-surgery. He 
is also known to be an excellent re- 
search worker in applied physics.” 
“Nuts, hey?” asked Walt. 

“Yeah, he’s nuts. But only in 
one way, Walt. He’s nuts to think 
that he is smarter than the entire 
solar system all put together. Well, 
what do we do now?” 

“Butter ourselves well and start 
scratching for the answer. That 
betatron trick will not work twice. 
There must be something.” 

“O. K, Walt. We’ll all help you 
think. I’m wondering how much 
research he had to do to develop 
that beam. After all, we were five 
thousand miles away, and he heated 
us up. He must’ve thought we were 
a meteor — and another thing, too — 
he must’ve thought that his beam 
was capable of doing something at 
five thousand miles distance or he 
wouldn’t have tried. Ergo he must 
have beaten that two hundred mile, 
bugaboo.” 

“We don’t know that the two 
hundred mile bugaboo is still bug- 
ging in space,” said Walt, slowly. 
“That’s set up so that the ioniza- 
tion-by-products are not dangerous. 
Also, he’s not transmitting power 
from station to station, et cetera. 
He’s ramming power into some sort 
of beam and to the devil with losses 
external to his equipment. The 
trouble is, darn it, that we’ll have to 
spend a month just building a large 
copy of my miniature set-up.” 

“A month is not too much time,” 



FIRING LINK 



87 



agreed Charming. “And Murdoch 
will take a swing at us as soon as he 
gets ready to reach. We can have 
Charley start building the big tubes 
immediately, can’t we?” 

“Just one will be needed. We’ll 
use one of the standard solar in- 
take tubes that we’re running the 
Station from. There’s spare equip- 
ment aplenty. But the transmitter- 
terminal tube will take some build- 
ing.” 

“Can we buy one from Terran 
Electric?” 

“Why not? Get the highest rat- 
ing we can. That should be plenty. 
Terran probably has them in stock, 
and it’ll save us building one.” 
“What is their highest rating ?” 
“Two hundred megawatts.” 

“O. K. I’ll send ’em a coded 
requisition with my answer to their 
letter.” 

“What are you going to tell ’em ?” 
“Tell ’em not to investigate the 
energy-gun idea unless they want 
to for their own reasons,” Chan- 
ning grinned. “They’ll probably as- 
sume — and correctly — that we’re 
going to tinker ourselves.” 

“And?” 

“Will do nothing since it is an 
extra-planetary proposition. Un- 
less it becomes suitable for digging 
tunnels, or melting the Martian ice 
cap,” laughed Channing. 

Mark Kingman took the'letter to 
Murdoch, who was hidden in the 
depths of the Black Widow. Hel- 
lion read it twice, and then 
growled. 

“They smell something, sure,” he 
snarled. “Why didn’t we make 

s*. 



that a perfect hit!” 

“What are we going to do now ?” 
“Step up our plans. They’ll have 
this thing in a few weeks. Hm-m-m. 
They order a transmitter terminal 
tube. Have you got any in stock?” 
“Naturally. Not in stock, but 
available for the Northern Landing 
power-line order.” 

“You have none, then. You will 
have some available within a few 
days. That half -promise will stall 
them from making their own, and 
every day that they wait for your 
shipment is a day in our favor. To 
keep your own nose clean, I’ll tell 
you when to ship the tube. It’ll be 
a few days before I strike.” 

“Why bother?” asked Kingman. 
“They won’t be around to call 
names.” 

“No, but their friends will, and 
we want to keep them guessing.” 

“I see. Those tubes are huge 
enough to excite comment, and 
there will be squibs in all the papers 
telling of the giant going to Venus 
Equilateral, and the Sunday Sup- 
plements will all break out in wild 
guesses as to the reason why Venus 
Equilateral wants a two-hundred 
megawatt tube. Too bad you 
couldn’t keep your escape a longer 
secret.” 

“I suppose so. But it was bound 
to be out sooner or later anyway. 
A good general, Kingman, is one 
whose plans may be changed on a 
moment’s notice without sacrificing. 
We’ll win through.” 

The days wore on, and the big 
turret on the top of the Black 
Widow took shape. The super- 
tubes were installed, and Murdoch 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 




worked in the bowels of the ship to 
increase the effectiveness of the 
course-integrators to accommodate 
high velocities and to correct for 
the minute discrepancies that would 
crop up due to the difference in ve- 
locities between light and sub-elec- 
tronic radiation. 

And on Venus Equilateral, the 
, losing end of a war of nerves was 
taking place. The correspondence 
by 'type was growing into a reason- 
able pile, while the telephone con- 
versations between Ter ran Electric 
and Venus Equilateral became a 
daily proposition. The big tubes 
were not finished. The big tubes 



were finished, but rejects because 
of electrode-misalignments. The 
big tubes were in the rework de- 
partment. The big tubes were on 
Luna for their testing. And again 
they were rejects because the maxi- 
mum power requirements were not 
met. They were returned to Evan- 
ston and were once more in the 
rework department. You have no 
idea how difficult the manufacture 
of two hundred megawatt tubes 
really is. 

So the days passed, and no tubes 
were available. The date passed 
which marked the mythical date of 
‘if ’ — If Venus Equilateral had 



FIRING LINE 



89 



started tlicir own manufacturing di- 
vision on the day they were first 
ordered from Terran Electric, they 
would have been finished and avail- 
able. 

Then, one day, word was passed 
along that the big tubes were 
shipped. They were on their way, 
tested and approved, and would be 
at Venus Equilateral within two 
days. In the due course of time, 
they arrived, and the gang at the 
Relay Station went to work on 
them. 

But Walt Franks shook his head. 
"Don, we’ll be caught like a sitting 
rabbit.” 

“I know. But — ?” answered 
Channing. 

There was no answer to that 
question, and so they went to work 
again. 

The news of Murdoch’s first blow 
came that same day. It was a news 
report from the Interplanetary Net- 
work that the Titan Penal Colony 
had been attacked by a huge black 
ship of space that carried a huge 
dome-shaped turret on the top. 
Beams of invisible energy burned 
furrows in the frozen ground, and 
the official buildings melted and ex- 
ploded from the air pressure within 
them. The Titan station went off 
the ether with a roar, and the theo- 
rists believed that Murdoch’s gang 
had been augmented by four hun- 
dred and nineteen of the Solar Sys- 
tem’s most vicious criminals. 

“That rips it wide open,” said 
Channing. “Better get the folks to 
prepare to withstand a siege. I 
don’t -think they can take us.” 

“That devil might turn his beams 



on the Station itself, though,” said 
Walt. 

“He wants to control communica- 
tions.” 

“With the sub-electron beams we 
now have, he could do it on far less 
Station for some time. Not per- 
fectly, but he’d get along.” 

“Fine future,” gritted Channing. 
“This is a good time to let this 
project coast, Walt. We’ve got to 
start in from the beginning and 
walk down another track.” 

“It’s easy to say, chum.” 

“I know it. So far, all we’ve been 
able to do is to take energy from 
the solar intake beams and spray it 
out into space. It goes like the ar- 
row that went — we know not 
where.” 

“So?” 

“Forget these gadgets. Have 
Charley hook up the solar intake 
tubes to the spotter and replace the 
cathodes with pure thorium. I’ve 
got another idea.” 

“O. *K., but it sounds foolish to 
me.” 

Channing laughed. “We‘ll stale- 
mate him,” he said bitterly, and ex- 
plained to Walt. “I wonder when 
Murdoch will come this way?” 

“It’s but a matter of time,” said 
W’alt. “My bet is as soon as he can 
get here with that batch of fresh 
rats he’s collected.” 

Walt’s bet would have collected. 
Two days later, Hellion Murdoch 
flashed a signal into Venus Equi- 
lateral and asked for Channing. 

“Hello, Hellion,” answered Chan- 
ning. “Haven’t you learned to keep 
out of our way?” 



#o 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 




worked in the bowels of the ship to 
increase the effectiveness of the 
course-integrators to accommodate 
high velocities and to correct for 
the minute discrepancies that would 
crop up due to the difference in ve- 
locities between light and sub-elec- 
tronic radiation. 

And on Venus Equilateral, the 
losing end of a war of nerves was 
taking place. The correspondence 
by ’type was growing into a reason- 
able pile, while the telephone con- 
versations between Terran Electric 
and Venus Equilateral became a 
daily proposition. The big tubes 
were not finished. The big tubes 



were finished, but rejects because 
of electrode-misalignments. The 
big tubes were in the rework de- 
partment. The big tubes were on 
Luna for their testing. And again 
they were rejects because the maxi- 
mum power requirements were not 
met. They were returned to Evan- 
ston and were once more in the 
rework department. You have no 
idea how difficult the manufacture 
of two hundred megawatt tubes 
really is. 

So the days passed, and no tubes 
were available. The date passed 
which marked the mythical date of 
‘if ’ — If Venus Equilateral had 

89 



FIRING LINE 



fort along another line.” 

“That’s not all— ?” 

“No. Frankly, I’m almost certain 
that your beam won’t do a thing to 
Venus Equilateral.” 

“We’ll see. Listen ! Turretman ! 
Are you ready?” 

Faintly, the reply came, and 
Channing could hear it. “Ready!” 
“Then fire all three. Pick your 
targets at will. One blast!” 

The lights in Venus Equilateral 
brightened. The thousands of line- 
voltage meters went from one hun- 
dred and twenty-five to one hun- 
dred and forty volts, and the 
line-frequency struggled with the 
crystal-control and succeeded in 
making a ragged increase from sixty 
to sixty point one five cycles per sec- 
ond. The power-output meters on 
the transmitting equipment went up 
briefly, and in the few remaining 
battery-supply rooms, the overload 
and overcharge alarms clanged until 
the automatic adjusters justified the 
input against the constant load. One 
of the ten-kilowatt modulator tubes 
•flashed over in the audio-room and 
was immediately cut from the op- 
erating circuit; the recording met- 
ers indicated that the tube had gone 
west forty-seven hours prior to its 
expiration date due to filament over- 
load. A series of fluorescent lighting 
fixtures in a corridor of the Station 
that should have been dark because 
of the working hours of that section, 
flickered into life and woke sev- 
eral of the workers, and down in 
the laboratory, Wes Farrell swore 
because the fluctuating line had dis- 
rupted one of his experiments, giv- 
ing him reason to doubt the result. 

92 



He tore the thing down and began 
once more; seventy days work had 
been ruined. 

“Well,” said Channing cockily, 
“is that the best you can do?” 
“You— !” 

“You forgot,” reminded Chan- 
ning, “that we have been working 
with solar power, too. In fact, we 
discovered the means to get it. Go 
ahead and shoot at us, -Murdoch. 
You’re just giving us more power.” 
“Cease firing!” exploded Mur- 
doch. 

“Oh don’t !” cheered Don. “You 
forgot that those tubes, if aligned 
properly, will actually cause bend- 
ing of the energy-beam. We’ve got 
load-terminal tubes pointing at you, 
and your power-beam is bending to 
enter them. You did well, though. 
You were running the whole Sta- 
tion with plenty to spare. We had 
to squirt some excess into space. 
Your beams aren’t worth the glass 
that’s in them !” 

“Stalemate, then,” snarled Mur- 
doch. “Now you come and get us. 
We’ll leave. But we’ll be back. 
Meanwhile, we can have our way 
with the shipping. Pilot ! Course for 
Mars! Start when ready!” 

The Black Widow turned and 
streaked from Venus Equilateral 
as Don Channing mopped his fore- 
head. “Walt,” he said, “that’s once 
I was scared to death.” 

“Me, too. Well, we got a respite. 
Now what?” 

“We start thinking.” 

“Right. But of what?” 

“Ways and — Hello, Wes. 
What’s the matter?” 

ASTOUNDING SO IITNCE-FICT I ON 



Farrell entered and said: “They 
broke up my job. I had to set it 
up again, and I’m temporarily free. 
Anything I can do to help?” 

“Can you dream up a space- 
gun ?” 

Farrell laughed. “That’s prob- 
lematical. Energy guns are some- 
thing strange. Their output can be 
trapped and used to good advan- 
tage. What you need is some sort 
of projectile, I think.” 

“But what kind of projectile 
would do damage to a spaceship?” 
“Obviously the normal kinds are 
useless. Fragmentation shells 
would pelt the exterior of the ship 
with metallic rain — if and providing 
you could get them that close. Ar- 
inor-pierCing would work, possibly, 
but their damage would be negli- 
gible since hitting a spacecraft with 
a shell is impossible if the ship is 
moving at anything like the usual 
velocities. Detonation shells are a 
waste of energy, since there is no 
atmosphere to expand and cantract. 
They’d blossom like roses and do 
as much damage as a tossed rose.” 
“No projectiles, then.” 

“If you could build a super-heavy 
fragmentation and detonation shell 
and combine it with armor-piercing 
qualities, and could hit the ship, you 
might be able to stop ’em. You’d 
have to pierce the ship, and have 
the thing explode with a terrific 
blast. It would crack the ship be- 
cause of the atmosphere trapped in 
the hull — and should be fast enough 
to exceed the compressibility of air. 
Also it should happen so fast that 
the air leaving the hole made would 
not have a chance to decrease the 



pressure. The detonation would 
crack the ship, and the fragmenta- 
tion would mess up the insides to 
boot, giving two possibilities. But 
if both failed and the ship became 
airless, they would fear no more 
detonation shells. Fragments would 
always be dangerous, however.” 
“So now we must devise some 
sort of shell — ?” 

“More than that. The meteor- 
circuits would intercept the incom- 
ing shell and it would never get 
there. What you’d need is a series 
of shells — say a hundred, all emit- 
ting the meteor-alarm primary sig- 
nals, which would cause paralysis of 
the meteor-circuits. Then the big 
one, coming in at terrific velocity.” 
"And speaking of velocity,” said 
Walt Franks. “The projectile and 
the rifle are out. We can get bet- 
ter velocity with a constant-accel- 
eration drive. I say torpedoes !” 
“Naturally. But the aiming? 
Remember, even though we crank 
up the drive to 50-G, it takes time 
to get to several thousand miles per 
second. The integration of a course 
would be hard enough, but add to 
it the desire of men to evade tor- 
pedoes — and the aiming job is im- 
possible.” 

“We may be able to aim them 
with a device similar to the one 
Charley Thomas is working with. 
Murdoch said his hull was made 
of lithium?” 

“Coated with,” said Channing 
“Well. Set the alloy-selectivity 
disk to pure lithium, and use the 
output to stear the torpedo right 
down to the bitter end.” 



FIRING LINE 



93 



"Fine. Now the armor-piercing 
qualities.” 

"Can we drill?” 

"Nope. At those velocities, im- 
pact would cause detonation, the 
combined velocities would look like 
a detonation wave to the explosive. 
After all, darned few explosives can 
stand shock waves that propagate 
through them at a few thousand 
miles per second.” 

"O.K. How do we drill?” 

"We might drill electrically,” 
suggested Farrell. “Put a beam in 
front?” 

"Not a chance,” grinned Chan- 
ning. “The next time we meet up 
with Hellion Murdoch, he’ll have 
absorbers ready for use. We 
taught him that one, and Murdoch 
is not slow to learn.” 

“So how do we drill?” 

"Wes, is that non-arcing alloy 
of yours very conductive?” 

"Slightly better than aluminum.” 
"Then I’ve got it! We mount 
two electrodes of the -non-arcing 
alloy in front. Make ’em heavy 
and of monstrous current-carrying 
capacity. Then we connect them 
to a condenser made of Farrell’s 
super-dooper dielectric.” 

"You bet,” said Walt, grinning. 
"We put a ten microfarad conden- 
ser in front, only it’ll be one hun- 
dred and thirty farads when we soak 
it in Farrell’s super-dielectric. We 
charge it to ten thousand volts, and 
let it go.” 

“We’ve got a few experimental 
jobs,” said Channing. "Those in- 
erts. The drones we were using 
for. experimental purposes. They 
were radio controlled, and can be 

94 



easily converted to. the aiming-cir-' 
cuits.” 

"Explosives ?” 

"We’ll get the chemistry boys to 
brew a batch.” 

“Hm-m-m. Remind me to quit 
Saturday,” said Walt. “I wonder 
how a ten farad condenser would 
drive one of those miniatures.” 

“Pretty well, I should imagine. 
Why?” 

"Why not mount one of the 
miniatures on a gunstock and put 
a ten farad condenser in the han- 
dle? Make a nice side arm.” 

"Good for one shot, and not per- 
manently charged. You’d have to 
cut your leakage down plenty.” 

“Could be. Well, we’ll work on 
that one afterwards. Let’s get that 
drone fixed.” 

"Let’s fix up all the drones we 
have. And we’ll have the boys wire 
up as many as they can of the little 
message-cannisters. The whole 
works go at once at the same accel- 
eration, with the little ones run- 
ning interference for the big boy.” 

“Murdoch invited us to ‘come 
and get him,’ ” said Channing in a 
hard voice. “That, I think we’ll 
do!” 

Four smoldering derelicts lay in 
absolute wreckage on or near the 
four great spaceports of the solar 
system. Shipping was at an un- 
equaled standstill, and the commu- 
nications beams were loaded with 
argument and recriminations and 
pleas as needed material did not 
arrive as per agreement. Three 
ships paid out one dollar each gross 
ton in order to take vital mer- 



ASTOOJiDING SCIRN CE-FI CTI ON 



chandise to needy parties, but the 
mine-run of shipping was unable to 
justify the terrific, cost. 

And then Don Channing had a 
long talk with Keg Johnson of In- 
terplanetary Transport. 

One day later, one of Interplanet- 
ary’s larger ships took off from 
Canalopsis without having paid 
tribute to Murdoch. It went free — 
completely automatic — into the 
Martian sky and right into Mur- 
doch’s hands. The pirate gunned 
it into a molten mass and hurled 
his demands at the system once 
more, and left for Venus since an- 
other ship would be taking off from 
there. 

In the Relay Girl, Don Channing 
smiled. “That finds Murdoch,” he 
told Walt. “He’s on the standard 
course for Venus from Mars.” 

“Bright thinking,” commented 
Walt. “Bait him on Mars and then 
offer him a bite at Venus. When’ll 
we catch him?” 

“He’s running, or will be, at 
about 3-G, I guess. We're roaring 
along at five and will pass Mars at 
better than four thousand miles per 
second. I think we’ll catch and pass 
the Black Widow at the quarter- 
point, and Murdoch will be going at 
about nine hundred miles per. 
We’ll zoom past, and set the finder 
on him, and then continue until 
we’re safely away. If he gets 
tough, we’ll absorb his output, 
though he’s stepped it up to the 
point where a spacecraft can’t take 
too much concentrated input.” 

“That’s how he’s been able to 
blast those who went out with ab- 
sorbers ?” 



“Right, The stuff on the Sta- 
tion was adequate to protect, but 
an ordinary ship couldn’t handle it 
unless the ship were designed to 
absorb and dissipate that energy. 
The beam-tubes would occupy the 
entire ship, leaving no place for 
cargo. Result: A toss-up between 
paying off and not carrying enough 
to make up the difference.” 

“This is Freddy,” spoke the com- 
municator. “The celestial globe 
has just come up with a target at 
eight hundred thousand miles.” 

“O. K., Freddy. That must be 
the Black Widow. How’ll we pass 
her?” 

“About thirty thousand miles.” 
“Then get the finders set on that 
lithium-coated hull as we pass.” 
“Hold it,” said Walt. “Our 
velocity with respect to his is about 
three thousand. We can be certain 
of the ship by checking the finder- 
response on the lithium coating. If 
so, she’s the Black Widow. Right 
from here, we can be assured. Jim ! 
Check the finders in the torpedoes 
on that target!” 

“Did,” said Jim. “They’re on 
and it is.” 

“Launch ’em all!” yelled Franks. 
“Are you nuts ?” asked Chan- 
ning. 

“Why give him a chance to guess 
what’s happening? Launch ’em!” 
“Freddy, drop two of the tor- 
pedoes and half of the interferers. 
Send ’em out at 10-G. We’ll not 
put all our eggs in one basket,” 
Channing said to Walt. “There 
might be a slip-up.” 

“It’ll sort of spoil the effect,” 



FIRING LINE 



#5 



said Don. “But we’re not here for 
effect.” 

“What effect?” 

“That explosive will be as useless 
as a slab of soap,” said Don. “Ex- 
plosive depends for its action upon 
velocity — brother, there ain’t no ex- 
plosive built that will propagate at 
the velocity of our torpedo against 
Murdoch.” 

“I know,” said Franks, smiling. 

“Shall I yell ‘Bombs away’ in a 
dramatic voice?” asked Freddy 
Thomas. 

“Are they?” 

“Yup.” 

“Then yell,” grinned Walt. 
“Look, Don, this should be pretty. 
Let’s hike to the star-camera above 
and watch. We can use the double- 
telescope finder and take pix, too.” 

“It’s won’t be long,” said Chan- 
ning grimly. “And we’ll be safe 
since the interferers will keep Mur- 
doch’s gadget so busy he won’t have 
time to worry us. Let’s go.” 

The sky above became filled with 
a myriad of flashing spots as the 
rapidly-working meteor spotters 
coupled to the big turret and began 
to punch at the interferers. 

The clangor of the alarm made 
Murdoch curse. He looked at the 
celestial globe and his heart knew 
real fear for the first time. This 
was no meteor shower, he knew 
from the random pattern. Some- 
thing was after him, and Murdoch 
knew who and what it was. He 
cursed Channing and Venus Equi- 
lateral in a loud voice. 

It did no good, that cursing. 
Above his head, the triply mounted 

96 



turret danced back and forth, free- 
ing a triple-needle of Sol’s energy. 
At each pause another interferer 
went out in a blaze of fire and a 
shock-excitation of radio energy 
that blocked, temporarily, the finder 
circuits. And as the turret de- 
troyed the little dancing motes, more 
came speeding into range to replace 
them, ten to one. 

And then it happened. The 
finder-circuit fell into mechanical 
indecision as two interferers came 
at angles, each with the same inten- 
sity. The integrators ground to- 
gether, and the forces they loosed 
struggled for control. 

Beset by opposing impulses, the 
amplidyne in the turret stuttered, 
smoked, and then went out in a 
pungent stream of yellowish smoke 
that poured from its dust-cover in 
a high-velocity stream. The danc- 
ing of the turret stopped, and the 
flashing motes in the sky stopped 
with the turret’s death. 

One hundred and thirty farads, 
charged to ten thousand volts, 
touched the lithium-coated, alumi- 
num side of Murdoch’s Black 
Widow. Thirteen billion joules of 
electrical energy ; thirty-six hundred 
kilowatt hours went against two 
inches of aluminum. At the three 
thousand miles per second relative 
velocity of the torpedo, contact was 
immediate and perfect. The alu- 
minum hull vaporized under the 
million upon million of kilovolt-am- 
peres the discharge. The vapor- 
ized hull tried to explode, but was 
hit by the unthinkable velocity of 
the torpedo’s warhead. 

The torpedo itself crushed in 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



front. It mushroomed under the 
millions of degrees Kelvin devel- 
oped by the energy-release caused 
by the cessation of velocity. For 
the atmosphere within the Black 
Widow was as immobile and as hard 
as tungsten steel at its best. 

The very molecules themselves 
could not move fast enough. They 
crushed together and in compress- 
ing brought incandescence. 

The energy of the incoming tor- 
pedo raced through the Black 
Widow in a velocity wave that 
blasted the ship itself into incan- 
descence. In a steep wave-front, 
the vaporized ship exploded in space 
like a supernova. 

It blinded the eyes of those who 
watched. It overexposed the cam- 
era film and the expected pictures 
came out with one single frame a 
pure, seared black. The piffling, 
comparatively ladylike detonation of 
the System’s best and most terrible 
explosive was completely covered 
in the blast. 

Seconds later, the Relay Girl 
hurtled through the sky three thou- 
sand miles to one side of the blast. 
The driven gases caught the Girl 



and stove in the upper observation 
dome like an eggshell. The Relay 
Girl strained at her girders, and 
sprung leaks all through the rigid 
ship, and after rescuing Don Chan- 
ning and Walt Franks from the 
wreckage of the observation dome, 
the men spent their time welding 
cracks until the Relay Girl landed. 

It was Walt who put his finger 
on the trouble. “That was period 
for Murdoch,” he said. “But Don, 
the stooge still runs loose. We’re 
going to be forced to take over 
Mark Kingman before we’re a foot 
taller. He includes Terran Electric, 
you know. That’s where Murdoch 
got his machine work done.” 

“Without Murdoch, Kingman is 
fairly harmless,” said Don, object- 
ing. “We’ll have no more trouble 
from him.” 

“You’re a sucker, Don. King- 
man will still be after your scalp. 
You mark my words.” 

“Well, what are you going to do 
about it?” 

“Nothing for the present. I’ve 
got some unfinished business to at- 
tend to at Lincoln Head. Mind?” 



THE END. 




V1BINO LINE 



87 



IN TIMES TO COME 

Next month will, of course, bring part two of “Nomad.” This yarn, by the way, is 
an unusual set-up, more like the usual course of life than the average story in one 
respect. Generally speaking, a dimwit who starts out to be a hero winds up cither 
dead, or by getting somebody else to be a hero — the man that rescues the would-be 
hero under impossible circumstances. The infantryman who comes back to our lines 
with fifty or so prisoners, six machine-gun nests wiped out, and details on the location 
of four enemy artillery batteries is usually some guy that was sent on a mission, and 
got captured. From that point on, a remorseless sequence of reactions and events 
forced him to — for his life — argue his captors into surrendering, get rid of the opposi- 
tion between him and home-line safety, and take darned careful note of the location of 
powerful opposition so he could avoid it. 

So we start with Guy Maynard — hero. He’s been kidnaped, knocked down, 
kicked out, and forced back to Earth. He had to; now he has to — 

Van Vogt’s back next month, with the cover story “The Mixed Men.” A sequel 
to the series that started with “Concealment” and “The Storm.” As a matter of fact, 
the line-up proposed for next issue and the next will include nearly all the regular 
favorites, plus a pair of new names — Robert Abernathy and A. Bertram Chandler. 

* The Editor. 



THE ANALYTICAL LABORATORY 

The September reports have interested me in several ways. First, I want to thank 
the larger number of readers who sent in their votes this time; I can’t answer all 
letters, naturally, though I try to get at as many as possible. The Lab is, naturally, 
impossible without your support — and it works two ways. The relative ratings of 
stories in a given issue is readily calculated on a fairly scientific, statistical basis, 
and appears on these pages. It’s a darned sight harder, though, to get the compara- 
tive ratings on the best story in the September issue with respect to the stories that 
appeared in the June issue, for instance. One way that does give me a slight guide, 
at least, is the total number of letters received. There were a lot more letters on 
tlie September issue, than on the August issue, for instance. From which I conclude 
that the September issue was better liked as a whole, and that, therefore, “A Can of 
Paint” in September was actually better liked than “Juggernaut.” 

September is also interesting in that, with a very large number of votes on hand, 
with a wide scattering of choice, three stories made a dead-heat tie for 13 place. 



Place 


SEPTEMBER ISSUE: 
Story 


Author 


Points 


1 . 


Renaissance 


Raymond F. Jones 


1.5S 


2. 


Census 


Clifford D. Simak 


2.35 


3. 


Tied: 

Culture 


Jerry Shelton 


3.35 




A Can of Paint 


A. E. van Vogt 


3.35 




Hobo God 


Malcolm Jameson 


3.35 


4. 


Business of Killing 


Fritz Lciber, Jr. 


4.51 


Place 


AUGUST ISSUE: 
Story 


Author 


Points 


1 . 


Renaissance 


Raymond F. Jones 


1.70 


2. 


The Big and the Little 


Isaac Asimov 


2.30 


3. 


Juggernaut 


A. E. van Vogt 


2.85 


4. 


Bridgehead 


Frank B. Long 


3.00 



Finally, Probability Zero went as screwy as any of its own yarns. You see, 
Jerry Shelton’s Brass Taeks letter about how to cut vacuums to fit, proceeded to take 
first prize in Probability Zero — in which it wasn't entered. I feel that anybody who 
can win the race for First Class Liar without even trying obviously deserves the 
prize. That brings “Icicle Built for Groo,” by John H. Pomeroy ten dollars, and 
“A Matter of Relativity,” by P. Anderson five dollars. . -p aE g nlT0R 



98 



ASTOUNDING SCI ENOE - FICTI ON) 




Herewith Astounding presents 
the results of a photographic ex- 
periment in spaceflight. Admit- 
tedly, the results were somewhat 
disappointing, but they were highly 
interesting and suggest that, with' 
better apparatus available, some ex- 
tremely useful investigations could 
be made. 

The essence of the experiment is 
outlined in the drawings above. 
The Moon is a sphere ; when a tele- 
scoj)e takes a photograph of its sur- 
face, the spherical lunar surface is 
very accurately projected onto a 
plane surface — the surface of the 
photographic plate. It is perfectly 
possible to reverse that purely op- 
tical process, and project that plane- 
image onto a white sphere, produc- 



ing a sphere-image duplicate. This 
sphere-image will he three-dimen- 
sional ; it will be an accurate — in 
most essentials — reproduction of the 
original, in its correct relationship. 
It can. therefore, he photographed 
from new angles, making it possible 
to view lunar features from direc- 
tions never seen by man. 

Old hands at lunar observation 
will undoubtedly be shocked, con- 
fused and disturbed by the prints 
on pages 99 and 101 in particular. 
The whole layout of the Moon’s 
face is twisted, distorted almost out 

The Moon— seen from a point about 
100.000' miles north of Earth, and 
halfway out to the Moon’s orbit. 



A.sTor N'iuni; scibnck-fictiox 



< • 






The region around Plato and the Great Galley, in the northern hemi- 
sphere, seen from a point overhead. (1.) Plato. (2.) The Great Galley. 



of recognition. Each of these shots 
represents a viewpoint more than 
one hundred thousand miles out in 
space — a viewpoint no man has yet 
attained. The shots on 102 and 
103 are less familiar, since they are 
great enlargements of certain small 
aspects of the lunar surface. The 
picture on 102 was taken from a 
spaceship passing almost directly 
above the Great Valley and Plato; 
that on 103 is taken from a view- 
point almost directly above Clavius 
and Schiller, far to the south. 

These photographs are not satis- 
factory ; they were the best we 
could arrange in New York City at 
this time. We were limited by 

10 :! 



purely optical considerations, largely- 
based on the fact that no really 
large, pure-white sphere was avail- 
able. A few years back, with a lit- 
tle co-operation from the World’s 
Fair committee, we might have done 
a really good job, using the Peri- 
sphere as our projection screen on a 
dark night. 

Briefly, the problem is this : The 
photographic plates were made by 
focusing a sixty-inch or one-hun- 
dred-inch telescope on the two-thou- 
sand-mile-diameter moon. The 
smallest feature 1 recorded was sev- 
eral hundred times sixty inches 
across. The ratio of diameter of 
lens to diameter of object was prac- 



A s t o r x i > i x ( ; seiiixe k k i < ■ t i o n 




tically one to infinity ; the telescope 
lens constitutes a point. 

But in projecting the photo- 
graphic plate so obtained onto a 
white sphere of a few feet diameter, 
we are working with something a 
long, long way from effective-point- 
size. Even with the projector lens 



stopped down to its smallest open- 
ing, the lens diameter is greater than 
the diameter of some of the objects 
to be shown — then lens diameter 
is great enough to “look around” 
the edge of our ersatz moon. If 
the lens has an effective diameter of 
a quarter of an inch, there will be 
( Continued an page 178) 



The region of Clavius and Schiller, far to the south of the Moon. Schiller 
looks oval on ordinary shots of the Moon; this viewpoit shows it is 
oval, probably due to a low-angle impact. (1.) Clavius. (2.) Schiller. 





•&> the$t 



STRAI< 



♦ HYGINUS '"Wollwerk 
i not visible) 



LATO 



S fl 

WfcM 

Y ' B ■ Me j 

LINNE < a ,'MARE IMBRIUM 

would be-ji^te) JijA 

6$ Vpiton 

' 

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GREAT VALL 



OOll 






Mysteries 



by WILLY LEY 




The Moon ns a whole is not so mysterious as it once was — and some 
of its features are being explained now. Even the craters — which 
you can duplicate beautifully ’ and simply in your own basement! 



Astronomic omnia divisa est in 
fortes tres — 

.One of these three parts, or dis- 
ciplines, is quite recent ; it is long- 
distance stellar astronomy, dealing 
with other suns and other galaxies 
and relying for its raw material 
mainly on evidence furnished by the 
spectroscope -and the photographic 
camera. Because of its recent age 
we may call it the third of the three 

Fig. 1. Aerial photographers like 
dawn light, because shadows bring 
out details; noon light hides them. 
For lunar details, full moon is noon- 
light; half -moon view shows more. 



disciplines. 

The other two deal with things 
closer to home and here the distinc- 
tion is not one of distance and of 
instruments employed, but one of 
subject matter. One discipline deals 
with movements, the other with con- 
stitution, topography, et cetera. The 
one is enormously exact, predicting 
eclipses, occultations and positions 
down to minutes and seconds — 
what meteorologist would even dare 
to predict even the date of the next 
thunderstorm? — while the other is, 
politely speaking, not so exact. Bar- 
ring the Moon no other large body 
of our solar system ever comes as 



MOON MYSTKitlKS 



105 




Fig. 2. The astronomer Flammarion pictured the Lunar landscape as a 
twisted, volcanic area; the true nature of the craters was not known. 



106 



ASTOUNDING SC I K N C E - F I OT I O N 




Fig. 3. The model for Flamnwr inn’s Lunar landscape, shown in Astro- 
nomic Populairc, were these extinct volcanoes in the Auvergne, in France. 



close to Earth as Venus. We know 
precisely where Venus will be at 
any given day and hour, w r e know 
her weight and size — but we are not 
even sure about the position of her 
axis and in any three astronomical 
books you can find five different 
opinions about the surface condi- 
tions on Venus. As for the Moon 
which is still closer . . . but we’ll 
speak about that later. 

— divisa est in partes tres, but 
the three parts evidently failed to 



attain equal degrees of perfection. 
It is a question of instruments and 
because of that you are perfectly 
justified to read a different but 
equally true Sense into that classic 
quotation. You can say that the 
story of astronomical science con- 
sists of three strictly distinct eras, 
marked by the inventions of as- 
tronomical instruments. 

The first and earliest era of as- 
tronomy is that which began in 
Babylonic times and continued until 



MOON MYSTEHIES 



107 




Courtesy: Transcontinental and Western Air 



Fig. 4. If it zvere not for the plane in the foreground — or if the plane 
had neither wings nor empennage — you could claim this picture of Meteor 
Crater, Arizona was simply a minor meteor crater, somewhere on the Moon. 



Jan Lippershey in the Netherlands 
invented the telescope during that 
stormy portion of human history 
which is called the Renaissance. 
That first long era of at least thirty 
centuries was the era of naked eye 
observation with no other instru- 
ments than some sighting devices 
for measuring angles and angular 
distances. During that era astron- 
omy had only one discipline, the 
one dealing with the motion of the 
planets. All through that era the 
astronomer with the better eyes 
was the better astronomer. That 
rule had no exception until the very 
end of the first astronomical era. 



Curiously enough the one big and 
important exception was Johannes 
Kepler, the man who established 
the true shape of planetary orbits 
and the three laws of planetary 
motion named after him. 

The invention of the telescope 
coincided with the climax of Kep- 
ler’s work. That work was still 
based on naked eye observations — 
mostly Tycho Brahe’s — and then 
the telescope opened, literally, new 
vistas. The second era of astron- 
omy was born and with it the sec- 
ond discipline, that dealing with the 
topography and the conditions on 
the planets. Kepler, who for many 

A K T O V N D l N G SCIKXC K - F I C T HI N 



108 



years had been writing a book 
about the Moon, finally saw with bis 
own eyes what even the “best” as- 
tronomers before him bad not been 
able to see: the circular ringwalls 
of our satellite, the so-called 
“craters.” He saw the mountains 
whicli were later called the Lunar 
Alps, the Lunar Apennines and 
so on, he saw the dark and strangely 
smooth areas of the maria. 

The second era of astronomy was 
the era of the improved eye. First 
it was straight improvement, the 



telescope was the bigger and better 
eye which could see detail where 
the naked eye, no matter how sharp, 
had only seen gray smudges. 
Later on in that era the improve- 
ments took another turn. If you 
stare at a faint spot, it remains 
faint to your eye, no matter how 
long you look. The telescope does 
not change this essential feature. 
But then the artificial eye did not 
only get a bigger pupil and a more 
powerful lens, it also acquired a 
new retina with the miraculous 
quality of adding faint impressions 



Fig. 5. A perfect representation of the making of a lunar crater, done in 
miniature, by dropping a tablespoonfid of cement powder on a surface of 
the same material from a height of forty inches. The crater at the left, 
120 mm. in diameter, shows a typical central mountain; the other at 
right, 90 mm. across, resembles Meteor Crater in Arizona. In the second 
experiment, plaster of Paris powder was dropped to show distribution 
of “meteoric matter.” White splashes could be found as much as a yard 
from the “crater.” The finished crater landscape can be made permanent 
by simply spraying with water from an atomizer, followed by soaking. 









Fig. 6. Top: Cross section of ex- 
perimental impact crater , the dotted 
line showing ground level before im- 
pact, white line in crater the dis- 
tribution of the ‘‘meteorite.'’. Bottom: 
Cross section of actual moon crater 
with central mountain; line as above. 

until they became clear : the camera. 
And then a still more wonderful 
“eye” was invented, one which did 
not see the shape and color of 
things, but one which could see 
their chemical constitutions — within 
certain limitations — the spectro- 
scope. 

We are still in that second era 
but our position on the time scale 
is about that of the newborn Kep- 
ler. The second era of astronomy 
is nearing its end and in about a 
lifetime the third era is going to 
begin, with the spaceship added as 
a new ty]>e of astronomical instru- 
ment. 

It is easy to guess which of the 
three disciplines will progress most 
during the third era of astronomy. 
The stars will be out of reach for a 

no 



long time to come. The theory of 
astronomical movements is suffi- 
ciently well developed not to need 
the spaceship very urgently, in fact' 
much of the theory of space travel 
is based on the reliability of the 
theory of astronomical movements 
since the spaceship is essentially, to 
quote Dr. R. S. Richardson, “an 
asteroid capable of changing its or- 
bital elements.” It is the second 
discipline, the one concerned with 
the surfaces of the planets, which 
needs the spaceship. Without it as- 
tronomers are helpless even in the 
case of the Moon,, and the Moon 
is not only the nearest but also by 
far the best known of all the bodies 
of the solar system, not counting 
Earth. 

The best proof lies in a few hours 
at night with a telescope, it does 
not need to be one of the giant 
instruments. On and off, for the 
last twenty years, whenever I had 
an opportunity of using a telescope, 

I have sat in the open and usually 
cold air, looking at the formations 
of the lunar surface and trying to 
read some meaning into them. By 
now they have become quite fa- 
miliar, but only in about the same 
sense in which I am familiar with 
the zoological phenomenon of the 
Australian duckbill platypus. The 
better you get to know these things 
the stranger they appear ; it requires 
a lot of familiarity and knowledge 
to really appreciate all the quirks 
and wrinkles and difficulties. 

The distance across which you 
look when searching the face of 
the Moon for your favorite puzzles 
is very short as astronomical dis- 

ASTOt’KUI X C SCI K X C K - F I C T 10 X 




Fig. 7 . The “Great Valley'’ of the Lunar Alps, drawn by Pit. Fauth. 




Fig. 8. Clavius, in the southern hemisphere, a “walled plain” crater. 
C I an us. like other “walled plains" is evidently extremely old; both 
the interior plain, and the ringwal! show impact .of later meteorites. 
Some astronomers believe ancient Clavius shows traces of erosion. 



1 1 i 



MOO N M Y S T K It 1 1 : s 




iV 




Fig. 9. The astronomer Hansen be- 
lieved the moon egg-shaped , not 
spherical, the tip pointing toward 
Earth. The far side, being "lower,” 
had collected atmosphere, -dr row 
points toward Forth. Nezvcomb 
showed the moon is almost spherical. 

tances go. It is only a fraction over 
one light-second, some 240,000 
miles, 384,000 kilometers in the 
metric system. This is not far 
even by a purely terrestrial yard- 
stick. 1 am quite certain that there 
are many thousands of sailors who 
have helped to get a liberty ship 
from the American east coast to 
British ports, making roundtrip 
after roundtrip as a matter of rou- 
tine. When they completed their 
thirtieth roundtrip they had cov- 
ered the distance to the Moon. 

It is the distance of thirty round- 
trips from New York to England, 
or of forty roundtrips from New 
York to Hollywood, across which 
you look when you see the Moon. 
Looking through a telescope the 
distance becomes much less, opti- 

112 



cally speaking. A large astronomi- 
cal telescope, under fine seeing con- 
ditions, can put an astronomer so 
“near” that the picture he sees is 
the same as if he were looking— 
without a telescope — .through the 
window of a spaceship circling the 
Moon five hundred miles from its 
surface. The case may be com- 
pared to the hypothetical one of a 
pilot flying high over unknown ter- 
ritory, with enough fuel to cruise 
endlessly, hut unable to land or 
even to go lower. 

Such a position is not without 
advantages, it is fine for map-mak- 
ing. The pilot could produce a 
fine general map and one could tell 
afterwards where mountains, rivers, 
forests and lakes are located, how 
the shoreline runs and where the 
desert begins. The thing the pilot 
could not produce is a geological 
survey. 

What I said just now about a 
high-flying plane over unknown 
territory holds true also for that 
optical distance of five hundred 
miles to which a powerful telescope 
carries the observer or the camera. 
It is still close enough for excellent 
map-making ; it is somewhat in- 
credible but true that we know the 
surface of the Moon — that half of 
it that we can see, that is — better 
than we know the surface of the 
Earth. Roughly ten percent of the 
land surface of our planet is still 
unknown anti is so marked on bet- 
ter maps. Another ten percent is 
mostly guesswork, based on reports 
that are still subject to corrections. 

There is no guesswork at all on a 
lunar map. 

ASTOUNDING S C I B NOB- F I C T I O N 



To make up for such an intoler- 
ably ideal state of affairs the inter- 
pretation is guesswork all the way 
through. These beautiful lunar 
maps are purely topographical, but 
what we really want, although we 
usually do not think of it in those 
terms, are geological — “selenologi- 
cal.” if you prefer — surveys. And, 
since we never had even a single 
one. these amazingly complete maps 
are fairly worthless from the point 
of view of interpretation. 

That hypothetical pilot who is 



cruising high above unknown terri- 
tory without being able to land at 
least knows what it is he sees. He 
knows that a shoreline is a bound- 
ary between sea and land, that a 
river is a continuous depression con-, 
tabling flowing fresh water, that 
white-capped mountain peaks are 
white because they are covered with 
ice and snow. In the case of a 
forest the pilot’s knowledge of 
longitude and latitude would per- 
mit him a fair guess as to the type 
of forest. 'Most of his interpreta- 




Fig. 10. Section of Moon near Hyginus Chasm, seen near sunset. It 
creates the impression of some other formation, drowned in hardened lava. 
The droumed formation is, however, of a type unknown anywhere on Earth. 



•MOON M VST K KIES 



113 





Fig. 11 . The same section as it was “reconstructed'’ a century ago — when 
walls and battlements and defense towers zvere more common on Earth. 
That the towers would be a mile high to shozv didn't discourage dreamers , 



114 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE -FICTION 




'tion would be correct even though 
it, strictly speaking, would be based 
on inference throughout. But the 
pilot would know other and simi- 
lar landscapes and would, there- 
fore, be able to draw correct analo- 
gies and conclusions. We have, 
after all, only a few types of cli- 
mates, moist and warm, moist and 
cold, dry and warm and dry and 
cold, superimposed on an equally 
limited number of topographical 
features like mountains, highlands, 
lowlands, et cetera. 

The surface of the Moon does 
not lend itself to such interpreta- 
tion. Everything we see, virtually 
without exception, is strange. In 
only a few instances can we rec- 
ognize features which we know on 
Earth too, and they are not very 
customary on Earth. According to 
Simon Newcomb’s famous word 
the Moon is a world without 
weather on which nothing ever hap- 
pens. This lack of weather should 
eliminate a number of possible vari- 
ations of the landscape and it ac- 
tually does. But that does not help 
us much, because it is the ground 
plan itself, the topographical 
“style,” which is different. 

In pre-telescopic times, and even 
during the first century or so of 
telescopic observation, these differ- 
ences in “style” did not appear so 
marked. Hence the lunar map is 
full of “terrestrializing” names 
which produce a false sense of simi- 
larity. The darkish spots one can 
see with the naked eye were named 
maria, seas, and it was there where 
fancy nomenclature had a grand 



time. One of the maria was con- 
jectured to be a Cloudy Sea (Mare 
nubium)-, another a Serene Sea 
(Mare serenitatii ) , a third a Stormy 
Ocean (Oceanus procellarum) . 
There is a Rainbow Bay (Sinus 
iridum) on the lunar map and a 
Misty Swamp (Palus nebularum). 

The other lunar features do not 
have such fancy names, just be- 
cause they are smaller in size and 
were not discovered until later, when 
astronomers had already realized 
that the Moon could not be com- 
pared with the Earth in such a di- 
rect manner. There are five types 
of lunar formations. The large 
and strangely smooth darkish maria, 
once believed to be seas and then 
the bottoms of ancient seas, are one 
type. The second and in certain 
respects most puzzling type are the 
numerous ringwalls or craters 
which range all the way from gigan- 
tic “walled plains” — of which 
Clavius is a fine example — to “nor- 
mal” Moon craters like Copernicus, 
and small “craterlets” to tiny 
“beads.” The third type are moun- 
tain chains like those “Alps,” 
“Apennines” and “Caucasus” 
around the Mare Imbrium. The 
fourth are strange deep chasms or 
channels, often called rills by as- 
tronomers, in adaptation of the Ger- 
man appellation Rille which means 
“groove.” The fifth type, finally, 
are the “rays” which radiate from 
some craters, mainly Tycho and 
Copernicus, bands of higher lumi- 
nosity which cross other craters, 
mountains and maria with great im- 
partiality, as if they were actually 
immaterial “rays” but they obvi- 



MOON MYSTERIES 



AST— 5S 115 



ously have to have a material na- 
ture. 

Even this simple accounting ot 
the five principal features — four 
of which are strange — gives an idea 
of the difficulties confronting any 
attempt at explanation. Most of 
the surface features of the Earth 
owe their existence or their shape 
to weather in one way or another 
— but there is no weather on the 
Moon. What seemed at first glance 
like a simplification of the problem 
turns out to be a serious handicap. 
The only lunar “weather” we know 
of is the monthly day-and-night 
period, amounting, in terms of sur- 
face temperature, to a regular cycle 
with two extremes which are about 
four hundred fifty degrees in tem- 
perature and two weeks in time 
apart from each other. Such 
weather can cause the cracking of 
surface rocks and it is quite likely 
that considerable portions of the 
lunar surface are covered with a 
kind of gravel of varying grain 
size, only a few inches deep. That 
cannot account for much and is a 
very secondary factor of which we 
do not even have any direct tele- 
scopic evidence. 

The bigger forms which we see 
through our telescopes are obvi- 
ously the final result of develop- 
ments which took place in the past 
when there was, presumably, 
weather and activity on the Moon. 
The question, the real question, is 
what kind of weather and what 
kind of activity. 

The early interpreters, especially 
Kepler, were not troubled by such 



a conception. At a time when it 
was the unspoken belief that our 
atmosphere extended to the Moon 
the question of weather could not 
come up. And although Kepler 
himself came to the conclusion that 
this belief could not be harbored, 
since that would have meant fric- 
tion and the solar system could 
function only if there was no fric- 
tion anywhere, he still had no rea- 
son to doubt that the Moon had its 
own atmosphere and its own 
weather. 

Nor did he have any scruples as- 
suming the existence of selenites, 
or Endymionides, as he called them. 
In fact the first evidence presented 
by the newly invented telescope at 
the very beginning of the second 
era of astronomy worked hand in 
hand with that belief. The tele- 
scope showed what looked like large 
numbers of tiny little circles, evi- 
dently large holes, situated around 
larger “hollows,”, the maria. And 
thus Kepler wrote : . 

"Those hollows of the Moon first seen 
by Galilei are . . . portions below the 
general level, like our oceans. But their 
appearance makes me judge that they are 
swampy for the greater part. It is there 
where the Endymionides find the sites 
for their fortified cities which protect 
them against the swampiness as well as 
against the heat of the Sun, possibly also 
against enemies. They do it in the fol- 
lowing manner: in the center of the 
chosen site they put a stout pole to which 
they attach ropes, their length depending 
on the size of the fortress to be built ; 
the longest (rope) measures five German 
miles (about twenty miles). Then they 
mark the periphery by walking around 
at the end of the rope. After that they 
amass to build the wall . . . Whenever 
, the inhabitants feel annoyed by the power 



118 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



of the sun those who live near the center 
move into the shadow of the outer wall 
. . . following the shadow for fifteen days 
they wander about and by this means en- 
dure the heat.” 

It was an obvious Idea for a 
time when people themselves lived 
in walled cities because of enemies, 
where they were plagued by the 
heat of the summer as well as by the 
dampness of winter. 

But Kepler lived to see only the 
first moments of the second era of 
astronomy and it was left to his 
compatriot Johannes Hevelius to 
explore the Moon with the new in- 
strument. The result was a monu- 
mental work called Selenographia 
which appeared in 1647 and which 
contained, among other things, evi- 
dence of lack of noticeable — or 
even visible — bodies of water on the 
Moon as well as statements about 
the lack of an atmosphere, at least 
if the term were understood in the 
terrestrial sense. Hevelius was defi- 
nite enough to influence even the 
Frenchman Bernard de Fontenelle, 
who — in 1686, if you care to know 
the date — claimed that all worlds 
were inhabited by inhabitants 
adapted to the conditions of their 
respective worlds to make an excep- 
tion in the case of the Moon. The 
Moon, de Fontenelle declared, 
might not be inhabited d cause de la 
rarete de I’air. 

Quite naturally interest in the 
Moon flagged for a considerable 
period and it was not until the 
nineteenth century that astronomers 
again energetically pursued the 
work started by Hevelius. But 



there were first a number of strange 
interludes. 

One of them is connected with the 
rather strange name of a strange 
man, the astronomer Franz von 
Paula Gruithuisen of Munich. (The 
pronunciation, if you feel inclined 
to try, is: Frants fon Pow-la 
Khroyt-hoy-zen. ) Gruithuisen had 
strange and unusually fantastic 
ideas, but it has to be said that he 
did not follow the occult method of 
substituting afternoon naps with ac- 
companying visions and revelations 
for serious research. He worked 
and worked hard, and had a well- 
grounded reputation as observer. 
He could make decent drawings, 
too. Of all the people who ob- 
served the Moon it would be just 
Gruithuisen who stumbled across a 
real mystery. In the late evening 
of July 12, 1822, he carefully stud- 
ied the vicinity of one of those 
mysterious chasms or rills, the one 
called the Hyginus rill because it 
runs through the crater Hyginus in 
the Southern portion of the Mare 
vaporum. 

There is a strange formation near 
the Hyginus rill. Some astrono- 
mers refer to it as Snail Moun- 
tain, because it looks somewhat like 
the upper portion of a huge snail 
that was trapped in tar. There are 
the upper ridges of other moun- 
tains in the vicinity, also looking 
as if their lower portions had been 
buried in something viscid which 
later hardened. The whole looks 
strange enough to seem artificial — 
and Gruithuisen did not hesitate for 
a moment to say that it was artifi- 
cial. At last, he proclaimed, we 



MOON MYSTERIES 



117 



are on the trail of the selenites, we 
can see an old and abandoned struc- 
ture, obviously an old fortress, 
guarding the entrance to an aban- 
doned city!' 

The discovery caused an enor- 
mous stir, as it would even today. 
But after an interval of breathless- 
ness other observers, especially 
Madler, declared that Gruithuisen’s 
imagination had made him see 
things that did not really exist. 
Where Gruithuisen’s had drawn 
the walls of a fortress and ruins 
of a city Madler just drew a num- 
ber of minor mountain ridges 
crossing each other. It is fair to 
say that Madler exaggerated as 
much in one direction as Gruithui- 
sen had exaggerated in the other. 
The mysterious spot is not a ruined 
city as drawn by Gruithuisen, but it 
is not as featureless as drawn by 
Madler either. It does not need a 
large telescope to see it — and the 
more you look at it the less does it 
“make sense” one way or another. 
Alone the fact that there is appar- 
ently something buried in something 
once liquid is hard enough to swal- 
low. What is the substance that 
once was liquid ? It could not have 
been water which is now ice. Its 
color is too dark, and if it were 
darkish rock dust over a layer of 
ice the rock dust would heat up 
sufficiently during the lunar day to 
melt the ice. If it was lava, where 
did it come from? 

Gruithuisen’s Wallwerk, as he 
called it, is not that, but we’ll not 
be able to tell what it really is until 
we get there. 

its 



After the storm about the Wall- 
werk there came another and in 
some respects even stranger inter- 
lude, the discussion about the al- 
leged nonspherical shape of the 
Moon. The father of that idea was 
Peter Andreas Hansen, a Danish 
watchmaker who, via a job as assis- 
tant surveyor in the Danish Sur- 
vey, became connected with the then 
new observatory in Altona and was, 
in 1825, called to the famous Uni- 
versity town of Gotha as director of 
the Seeberg observatory. There he 
distinguished himself greatly in 
theoretical work. One of his pa- 
pers, on the mutual perturbations 
of Jupiter and Saturn, won a prize 
from the Berlin Academy, another 
one on the orbits of comets won a 
prize from the Paris Academy while 
his Tables of the motions of the 
Moon were printed at the expense 
of the British Government and em- 
bodied in the Nautical Almanac. 
The Royal Astronomical* Society 
awarded him a gold medal, the 
Royal Saxonian Academy of Sci- 
ences considered it a privilege to 
print his works. Hansen’s fame 
was, as can readily be seen, interna- 
tional and well deserved and when 
he announced that he had a novel 
conception of the Moon everybody 
listened attentively. 

The mainstay of Hansen’s thesis 
was the fact that we see only one 
side of the Mooh since the Moon’s 
motion is about that of a barking 
dog jumping around a man. All he 
can see is the open mouth and bared 
inhospitable teeth. If one did not 
know the appearance of a dog, one 
might, because of that impression, 

.ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



picture it as a monster consisting 
of jaws and teeth, with some minor 
and ill-defined appendages. 

Astronomical research about the 
Moon has disclosed, Hansen said — 
without any such reference to dog- 
monsters — that the air is too thin to 
be detected, a fact which is popu- 
larly expressed by saying “no air.” 
It has failed to show the presence of 
water. All it does show is a collec- 
tion of silent craters, bleak moun- 
tain ridges and desolate mare 
plains. All in all the picture of a 
forbidding inhospitable world. 
There is no doubt that this picture 
is correct, but there is no reason 
to believe that it applies to all of the 
lunar world! It applies to the half 
we can see, it does not necessarily 
have to apply to the invisible half, 
too. In fact, Hansen said, there is 
good reason to believe that it 
doesn’t. Certain peculiarities in 
the behavior of the Moon indicate 
that it is not spherical at all, but 
that its shape should be compared 
with an egg, the long axis of which 
is pointing toward the Earth. 

What we see is the pointed end 
of the egg-shaped moon, so-to- 
speak a gigantic mountain, rising 
hundreds of miles above the ideal 
but nonexistent spherical surface 
of the neighboring world. Natu- 
rally there is no atmosphere, that 
gigantic “mountain” is higher than 
the lunar atmosphere. Naturally 
there is no water, any water that 
ever might have been there had 
flown over the rim to the lovylands 
of the “other side.” And these 
lowlands are apt to be moist, with a 
flourishing vegetation, with animals 



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MOON MYSTERIES 



119 



that have a life-rhythm adapted to 
the long cycle of lunar day and 
night, possibly even with those sel- 
enites Professor Gruithuisen has 
been looking for more or less in 
yain all these years. 

The dog, to return to my own 
picture, with snarling lips and in- 
hospitable teeth in front, did have a 
friendly rear end too, only we can't 
see it because of his peculiar mo- 
tion around us. 

It was an intriguing idea and, al- 
most needless to say, stories were 
written around it, one, by a Polish 
author, as late as 1911. (Fritz 
Lang, in his space-travel movie 
“Frau im Mond,” revived part of 
Hansen’s idea for the very simple 
practical reason that it permitted 
the actors to shed their spacesuits.) 
For a while everybody was in- 
trigued, but then critics arose. The 
most important of them was Simon 
Newcomb and Newcomb actually 
succeeded in proving that even Han- 
sen could make mistakes and that 
the Moon is at least as spherical as 
the Earth. And one German ob- 
servatory, just because of Hansen, 
inaugurated a special study of "the 
other side.” Since the Moon’s mo- 
tion is irregular it seems to “wob- 
ble” a bit, called Vibration in digni- 
fied language. This libration per- 
mits to see small parts of the “other 
side” at regular intervals so that the 
total of the Moon’s surface which 
we can see is not precisely one 
half, as should be expected, but 
about four sevenths. That special 
study agreed with Newcomb and 
not with Hansen, that what we can 



see of the “other side” is of the 
same type, or types, which haunt us 
on our side. The Moon is "all 
teeth.” 

After Hansen’s “Moon Moun- 
tain” had come crashing down as- 
tronomers set out in great serious- 
ness to explain what they saw. That 
explanation still sticks in the minds 
of quite a number of people and 
when you stand for some time near 
the large lunar photographs in the 
Hayden Planetarium— or any other 
— you’ll be able to overhear some 
father displaying his learning to his 
wife and half-grown children in 
about the following manner : 

“These big smooth areas you see 
there are the so-called mare, in 
former times this was all ocean, 
but now they are dry. All these 
little circles are extinct craters, 
that must have been some volcanic 
display when they were still active. 
Those little lines are deep chasms 
like our Grand Canyon. Down 
there you have real mountains like 
the Rockies-. And those white 
“rays” that emanate from some 
craters are cracks, the volcanism 
must have been bad enough to crack 
the whole Moon. Then lava came 
rip in the cracks and lava looks 
brighter than other rocks.” 

All of which is perfectly good 
astronomical conjecture, only it hap- 
pens to be slightly old-fashioned, by 
about seventy years. The whole ex- 
planation, you may have noticed, 
works with past volcanism and 
former weather. Former seas, 
former rivers cutting deep canyons 
into the rock, former weather erod- 
ing former volcanic craters. The 



120 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



important, but usually neglected, 
point is that the lunar craters, even 
if they were volcanic in origin, would 
have to be conceived as eroded 
craters. No active volcanic crater 
looks even remotely like the aver- 
age Moon crater, but an old and 
extinct crater on which erosion 
went to work for some ten thousand 
years or so, might resemble a lunar 
crater. In order to maintain the 
volcanic hypothesis you would have 
to assume that lunar volcanism 
stopped at a time when the atmos- 
phere was still dense and moist so 
that it could cause considerable ero- 
sion. 

I cannot help but feel that the 
whole volcanic hypothesis owes its 
existence to the semantic compul- 
sion of the term “crater.” Some 
dunderhead in the past thought that 
"crater” would be a nice conven- 
ient word for the ringwalls of the 
Moon and since then a long series 
of other dunderheads spent their 
lives trying to prove that the things 
they called craters actually were 
craters. 

If you call them ringwalls to be- 
gin with and then study their size 
and shape carefully, you'll soon be- 
gin to wonder why anybody ever 
even dreamed that they could have 
volcanic origin. The diameters of 
the vast majority run between 
thirty and one hundred twenty 
miles. The floor of the ringwalls 
is always lower than the general 
level of the surrounding moon- 
scape, in about fifty percent of all 
cases it shows a central mountain, 
in the other fifty percent the floor is 
virtually smooth. If there is a cen- 



tral mountain, its height is always 
such that it about reaches to the 
level of the surrounding moon- 
scape. If either the ringwall itself 
or the floor shows a noticeable in- 
terruption, it is usually a smaller 
ringwall of the same general type. 

As regards the volcanic hypothe- 
sis: the “craters” are far too large 
to begin with, even considering the 
lesser gravity of the Moon. If the 
ones without a central mountain 
were weathered down, you would 
naturally expect that the interior is 
considerably above the general level 
of the surrounding moonscape, 
filled with debris from the crater 
wall. Those with a central moun- 
tain would then be craters of the 
type you occasionally find on Earth, 
with a “young” active crater inside 
the old rim. But then the younger 
crater should be considerably higher 
than the old eroded ringwall and the 
floor, again, should be considerably 
above mean Moon level. And that 
a secondary young crater should 
break through the old ringwall, just 
at the spot where a lot of addi- 
tional weight is piled on, is a harder 
strain on the imagination than one 
could reasonably be expected to 
stand. 

Unbiased examination of the 
available data had to lead to the 
result that the lunar craters, in spite 
of their misleading designation, 
could not be volcanic in origin, 
unless you invented a special and 
impossible variety of volcanism to 
suit the observations. 

There existed an alternate hy- 
pothesis, invented by, of all people, 
old Gruithuisen. At one point of. 



MOON MYSTERIES 



121 



his writings he had mentioned, very 
much by-the-way, that the lunar 
craters looked like impact craters 
caused by cosmic matter. A little 
later a mining engineer by the name 
of Althans, who had witnessed the 
famous life struggle of ordnance 
engineers — i.e. first to devise an 
armor plate that will stand all 
known projectiles and then to de- 
sign a gun that will pierce that plate 
— arrived at the same conclusion, 
presumably without having read 
Gruithuisen. He even tried to ex- 
periment, using balls of grapeshot 
as meteorites and shallow pans 
filled with fresh mortar as the 
lunar surface. 

The first well-known astronomer 
to subscribe to the meteoric hy- 
pothesis was R. Proctor, some fifty 
years ago. Slowly the party of 
adherents tp the meteoric hypothe- 
sis grew and when the meteoric 
origin of comparable objects on 
Earth — especially Meteor Crater in 
Arizona — was established the 
growth of that party accelerated in 
proportion. What this party lacked 
was a neat and simple method of 
demonstrating meteor craters in the 
laboratory. 

They got that method in 1918, 
and it is hardly surprising to learn 
that it was not devised by an as- 
tronomer or physicist but by a ge- 
ologist. His name was Dr. Alfred 
Wegener, the same who later ac- 
quired fame as originator of the 
theory of continental drift. 

The type of experiments origi- 
nated by Althans had rarely led 
ianywhere, obviously because labora- 

2 * 



tory conditions could not duplicate 
the actual event well enough. In 
one case you had a leaden or rub- 
ber ball, hitting a “batter” of ce- 
ment or mortar with something like 
three feet per second, in the other 
you had a hunk of iron or rock, 
weighing scores of tons and striking 
the ground with a velocity of some 
twenty miles per second or more. 
You got a much truer picture of a 
lunar ringwall for a split second by 
dropping a drop of cream into a cup 
of coffee; the coffee, at least, did 
not have the annoying coherence of 
mortar. 

The answer was in that last 
statement. In general one may dis- 
tinguish between two types of 
forces, molecular forces — the 

strength of the material — and mass 
forces — gravitation — as Wegener 
called them. Both types of forces 
were present both in the laboratory 
and in actuality, but in an entirely 
different ratio! In the laboratory 
the “molecular forces” were rela- 
tively enormous and the mass force 
of gravitation appeared mainly as a 
nuisance. In an actual meteor 
crash the molecular forces— tensile 
strength of the material of the 
meteorite — did not count at all, the 
hardness of steel is as unimportant 
as the brittleness of rock when it 
comes to collisions at twenty miles 
per second. In order to imitate 
such a collision in the laboratory 
one had to find a material of no 
tensile strength! 

There are such materials, fine 
powders of any kind. Wegener 
chose cement powder for purely 
practical reasons, it comes in uni- 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



form quality and the results can 
afterwards be hardened by spraying 
with water. Both the “meteorite” 
and the “surface” were dust, sim- 
ply a shallow pan filled with ce- 
ment dust and a soup spoonful of 
cement powder that was dropped 
on that “surface” from a height of 
about forty inches. The experi- 
ment is so simple that anybody 
can repeat it any time, the only 
thing that is wrong with it is that 
cement dust is rather dirty to work 
with. 

The results are amazing. The 
impact craters do not only look like 
meteor craters, they also show all 
their characteristics. The floor is 
always below the general level, it 
is always smooth, the ratio between 
the height of the ringwall and the 
diameter of the whole is the same as 
that found in the less shallow natu- 
ral lunar craters, and the average 
of the measurements of some twenty 
craters showed almost precisely the 
same ratio of dimensions as Meteor 
Crater in Arizona. 

The first question that arose was : 
“What happens to the meteorite?” 
To answer that question a soup 
spoonful of plaster of Paris was 
dropped on a cement surface. The 
result was a surprise, the crater was 
white all over. Particles of plaster 
had spattered across the rim to a 
distance of about a yard. A cross 
section showed that the “meteoric 
matter” was thinnest over the crater 
floor and somewhat concentrated on 
the inner side of the ringwall. 
There was no “main mass” and it 
is probable that the majority of all 



large meteorites “disappears” in 
this manner. 

The next question was: “When 
does a central mountain form?” 

At first the experiments refused 
to answer that question, until one 
formed accidentally. It was then 
found that you can always get a 
central mountain, provided your 
layer of cement dust is not too 
thick. It has to be less than an 
inch. Repetition of the experiment 
with plaster of Paris and cross sec- 
tioning of the model showed that 
the central mountain was merely 
ground material that had not been 
moved outward to form the rim 
of the crater. This explains why 
the real central mountains never 
attain the height of the crater rim 
but only that of the surrounding 
level. The rim is ground material 
piled high, the central mountain is 
ground material left undisturbed. 
Translated into large-scale happen- 
ings this experiment indicates that 
a central mountain will form where 
thick layers of dense rock material 
can be found not too deeply below 
the surface. This does not seem to 
be the case in Arizona, hence 
Meteor Crater is without a central 
mountain. 

The development of the meteoric 
hypothesis accounts well for the 
thirty thousand or so craters we 
see on the Moon. All those diffi- 
culties with which the volcanic hy- 
pothesis had to wrestle endlessly, 
the large size, the smooth crater 
floor, smaller craters in the rim of 
bigger ones, lack or presence of a 
central mountain, the ratio of the 
various dimensions, all this fits well. 



MOON MYSTERIES 



m 



The same hypothesis can account 
for the maria too. Mare Crisium, 
as a quick look at any photograph 
will show, is simply a “super-gigan- 
tic” Moon crater. So is the Mare 
Imbrium and its mountain chains, 
the Alps, Apennines, et cetera, turn 
out to be merely parts of an enor- 
mous ringwall. But in the case of 
the maria an additional assumption 
has to be made. 

There can be no doubt that a 
meteorite causing a mare is a siz- 
able planetoid; it has been calcu- 
lated, for example, that the one 
' responsible for Mare Imbrium must 
have had a diameter of about one 
hundred twenty-five miles. A col- 
lision with a body of such mass 
: does more than just cause an im- 
pact crater. It is apt to break 
through and cause a lava flow of at 
least as much mass as that of the 
meteorite. The magma replaced by 
i the planetoid wells up and floods the 
! floor of the enormous crater. It is 
interesting, in this connection, to 
look at the later craters that formed 
on top of that lava flow. The small 
ones in the center — and a few large 
ones near the rim — are without cen- 
tral mountain, others near the rim, 
where the lava flow is presumably 
rather shallow, do have them. 

The general picture that emerges 
from these considerations is that 
the Moon is not a world “shriv- 
eled with age” as some people de- 
lighted in putting it half a century 
ago. On the contrary, the Moon 
represents the picture of a world 
which expanded after it was already 
formed. It expanded because of 
the addition of very large amounts 



of cosmic matter, especially those 
minor planets or moons which re- 
sulted in the maria. The strange 
and otherwise almost inexplicable 
rills are likely a secondary result 
of that expansion. 

Yes, but didn’t I knock my own 
argument out with all the forgoing? 
Early in this article I said that that 
discipline of astronomy which deals 
with the surfaces of the planets 
needs the spaceship as a new instru- 
ment of astronomical .research. If 
we know all that, do we really need 
it for the Moon? No doubt, a 
spaceship would be nice to have, 
but how much more could it teach 
us about the Moon? Except, pos- 
sibly, to see what Gruithuisen’s 
Wallzverk really is. 

Even forgetting about the IVall- 
werk which is somewhat boring 
after a century of discussion, and 
forgetting also about the "other 
side” which is rather too obvious 
an argument, the answer is still 
“yes.” With emphasis! There are 
many things we would like to know 
and never will know unless we get 
there. 

The Mare Imbrium has been 
mentioned so often before, let’s start 
there again. Just north of the 
Mare Imbrium — that is “down” on 
an astronomical photograph — 
there is the walled plain called 
Plato. The normal thing regarding 
the appearance of a lunar crater 
during a lunar day is this : when the 
sun rises for the crater the ring- 
wall stands out in bright illumina- 
tion, then the central mountain, if 



124 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



any, while the floor is still in a 
deep shadow. 

Gradually the floor is illuminated 
by the sun too, save for those por- 
tions in the direct shadow of the 
ringwall. As the terminator ad- 
vances the shadow shortens and 
when the sun is in the zenith for 
that crater everything is an almost 
featureless white, things are hard 
to see just because there are no 
shadows now. As for Plato the be- 
ginnings of a day are the same. But 
as the terminator progresses and the 
sun rises higher the floor gets 
darker. On photographs taken at 
what is almost high noon for that 
section of the Moon, Plato looks 
like an inkspot; people who did not 
know about that have asked me seri- 
ously whether that spot was a flaw 
in the plate. 

Evaporation of moisture forming 
a light-absorbing mist? Or just 
melting ice? I would very much 
like to know. But it would take a 
spaceship to get a reliable answer. 

Some seventy miles west of 
Plato, in the middle of the “Alps,” 
you suddenly come across the Great 
Valley, about ninety miles long and 
up to six and one half miles wide. 
The mountains of the “Alps” rise 
up to twelve thousand feet over the 
bottom of the Great Valley which is 
perfectly smooth as far as we can 
make out. There is absolutely no 
explanation for the Great Valley 
except one : that a meteorite of more 
than six miles diameter hit the 
Moon at so shallow an angle that it 
plowed through the Alps before it 
fell down elsewhere. We don’t 
know where, but you can find 




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MOON MYSTERIES 



125 



craters lying in the direction of the 
Great Valley on either side, which, 
of course, may be accidental and 
have nothing to do with the projec- 
tile in question. 

On Earth we have several meteor 
craters which we can study in de- 
tail and at leisure. But we don’t 
have anything like a valley literally 
shot out of a mountain chain by a 
large meteorite. The Great Valley 
deserves detailed study. But we 
can’t do it from here! 

There are some interesting moun- 
tains — not ringwalls — sticking out 
of the lava flow of the Mare Iin- 
briurn, for example Pico, just south 
of Plato. Are they really moun- 
tains? Or volcanic upheavals? We 
can’t tell until we get there. 

North of the Mare Imbrium there 
is Eratosthenes. Eratosthenes 
would be just a medium-sized, very 
beautiful and very typical crater, 
if it were not for William Picker- 
ing who observed repeatedly strange 
grayish spots moving around inside 
the crater. Cloud formations be- 
traying the presence of moisture? 
Or lunar vegetation, springing up 
and being killed by the heat of the 
sun with great rapidity? Or 
swarms of lunar insects, equivalents 
of terrestrial locusts? Or simply 
eyestrain ? 

We’ll never know until we get 
there. 

Not far from Eratosthenes there 
are the fine craters of Copernicus 
and Kepler, both showing typical 
patterns of “rays.” The “rays,” 
that much is clear, are evidently 
streaks of fine particles shot to a 

329 



considerable distance when the cra- 
ters were formed. It is quite likely 
that the material that causes them is 
so thinly spread that you could walk 
across a “ray” on the Moon with- 
out ever knowing it. Fine, but why 
do only a few craters have systems 
of “rays”? One astronomer ad- 
vanced the very interesting hypothe- 
sis that they are the .craters formed 
by large iron meteorites, that the 
“rays” are volatilized metal. Rock 
dust evidently is not apt to show 
much ; the explanation is fascinating 
and corresponds with terrestrial evi- 
dence. The Arizona crater is the 
result of an iron meteorite and small 
globules of iron have been found 
around it. It would be interesting 
to see wehther Meteor Crater, seen 
from space, shows “rays.” 

Before jumping to the South Pole 
of the Moon we have to make a de- 
tour into the Mare Serenitatis for 
Linne, named after the famous 
Swedish biologist and systematizer 
Linnaeus. 

Linne is merely a grayish-whitish 
spot, not clearly defined and look- 
ing alike all through the lunar day, 
i.e. too shallow to cast a shadow. 
Some observers stated that a tiny 
hole can be seen in the center of 
that spot, provided the telescope is 
large and the seeing conditions are 
more than just fine. This is a mod- 
ern description, made after 1900. 
But Schmidt, in 1843, claimed that 
Linne was a crater about six miles 
in diameter and some twelve hun- 
dred feet deep. And he and others 
of his time used Linne as a fixed 
point for measuring distances since 
it stood so neatly alone in the mare. 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



It still stands neatly alone, but no- 
body in his right mind would use 
such an ill-defined object for this 
purpose. Question : is Linne a real 
volcano which was active some time 
between about 1860 and 1890? 

We won’t be able to tell, et 
cetera. 

Near the South Pole there are 
more nice points of interest. There 
is Clavius, an enormous walled plain 
measuring well over one hundred 
fifty miles in diameter. Clavius is, 
no doubt, old. Seven big and a 
large number of smaller meteorites 
have scored direct hits on its walls 
in the meantime. The troublesome 
point is this: these newer craters 
are not .only newer because they are 
superimposed on Clavius’ ringwall, 
they also look newer. Is Clavius 
old enough to go back to a time 
where there was erosion as we know 
it? (The same question can be 
asked about some other walled 
plains, too. Yes, why only walled 
plains? Or mostly walled plains? 
Why not smaller craters?) 

And then there is Wargentin, ly- 
ing so close to the SE rim that it 
is hard to see most of the time. 
Wargentin is a forty-five-mile 
crater that is filled to the rim. What 
happened? If the meteorite that 
formed it broke through and caused 
a lava flow, why did not the lava 
melt the ringwall in some place? 



How could such a clearly defined 
ringwall form at all if the meteorite 
broke through? The only sugges- 
tion I can think of is that War- 
gentin was formed in the approved 
manner and that a later hit inside it 
broke through. This idea does not 
make me completely happy, it is 
merely the best I can think of right 
now. Meanwhile the “thin cheese” 
as Nasmyth and Carpenter called 
Wargentin, will continue to haunt 
me. 

And then we have the Railroad 
on the Southern hemisphere, also 
called the Straight Wall. Location : 
in Mare Nubiutn near crater Thebit, 
west of the crater, to be precise. 
(East of it, to make things a little 
more mysterious, is a slightly curved 
rill, shorter than the Straight Wall, 
but running parallel to it.) The 
Straight Wall is about seventy miles 
long, one thousand to two thousand 
feet high, showing as a black line 
part of the lunar day — shadow — 
and showing as a very white line 
otherwise. For the sake of the 
filing index the Straight Wall, also 
called the Railroad, has been put 
down as a rock fault. We do have 
rock faults on Earth, but they are 
much shorter and I still have to hear 
of one that is as straight as the 
Straight Wall. 

I think the Straight Wall, too, 
will be reserved for the coming 
third era of astronomy. 



THE END. 

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 



MOON MYSTERIES 



1*7 



PROBABILITY 

ZERO 



AGRICULTURAL GEOLOGY 
by 

George Holman 

“More than most people notice, 
the way they live depends on the 
geology o’ the country they live in,” 
Hardluck Hadley said, as we left 
Custard City behind and plodded 
northward along the gloomy trail 
toward the Carbohydrate Moun- 
tains. For the reason that he was 
familiar with the topography and 
geology of Venus, I had signed up 
the unlucky old prospector as a 
partner. 

Hardluck pointed to a Colonist at 
work in an artificially lighted field 
nearby. “Take that farmer in’ size 
him up with a farmer back on 
Earth,” he suggested. “The farmer 
on Earth grows grain, tubers, fruits 
an’ vegetables. He fertilizes his 
ground with limestone dust, phos- 
phates an’ nitrates. But that farmer 
here on Venus grovys macaroni, 
cream puffs an’ soft-nosed pies. 




An’ fur fertilizer he uses spices, 
eggs an’ rock sugar frum the mines 
o’ Saccharita.” 

“Over in Pristine Province 
farmin’ is different yet,” the old 
sourdough went on. “There the 
primordial rocks come near croppin’ 
out, an’ in places the soil is hematite 
or liinonite. Both are friable iron 
ores. One time I staked out a 
homestead on some hematite land, 
an’ tried to raise soft-nosed pies. 
But the crusts o’ my first crop o’ 
pies turned out to be cast iron. 
Then I tried to raise macaroni. It 
turned out to be small steel tubes. 
Then I hit on the idea o’ raisin’ ball 
bearin’s. I planted a small field, 
an’ got a bumper crop. As you 
know, they grow in long round pods 
on vines, like peas.” 

“I was figgerin’ on gittin’ rich 
raisin’ ball bearin’s fur all the ma- 
chinery here on Venus when an- 
other problem popped up. I didn’t 
have time to sell my crop before 
they started to rust. Soon they was 
pitted an’ spoiled. I took this loss. 



128 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



an’ set out to make my bearin’s 
rustproof. I ordered chromite from 
Luzon, an’ fertilized a small plot 
o’ my hematite land with it an’ some 
nickel ore an’ carbon. The bearin’s 
I raised on this plot turned out 
stainless. I ordered enough chro- 
mite fur my whole farm, an’ planted 
it all in bearin’s.” 

“I hired coolies to hull my first 
two crops by hand. But with my 
whole homestead in ball bearin’s, I 
needed a machine to thrash them. I 
mortgaged ever’thing I had to git 
the money fur a thrashin’ rig. I 
sent my order to a firm on Earth, 
an’ by harvest my bearin’ separator 
an’ separate smasher-powered en- 
gine was delivered.” 

“My orderin’ that thrasher let my 
plans be known, an’ the ball bearin’ 
manufacturers on Earth plotted my 
downfall. My shipment o’ fer- 
tilizer was late, an’ I had it spread 
at once. The chromite looked 
darker an’ heavier than the last ship- 
ment, but I was in too big a hurry 
to run a test on it.” 

“About a week later I noticed that 
ever’ bearin’ pod had lined itself in 
a northwest-southeast direction. I 
was puzzled till I remembered that 
Pristine Province is in a direct line 
between the two main magnetic 
poles o’ Venus. My ball bearin’s 
had become magnetized. I examined 
my fertilizer I had left over. I 
opened one of the drums labeled 
'Chromite.’ There was no chro- 
mite about it. It was magnetite.” 
“I couldn’t see where the bearin’s 
bein’ magnetic would damage them. 
So I got ready to thrash them. My 
coolies fed the vines into the sep- 



arator, an’ the blower blowed them 
out. But nary a bearin’ rolled out. 
I had figgercd out that the magne- 
tized bearin’s was stickin’ to the 
iron parts o’ the machine, when the 
whole separator suddenly turned 
around. The belt flew off as it 
made for the engine, like a magnet 
attracted toward steel.” 

“No sooner did my Venusian en- 
gineer see the separator move than 
he give the engine the gun. The 
smashers roared out, an’ the engine 
raced away across the fields. The 
separator full o’ magnetized bearin’s 
was right behind it. The engineer 
raced the engine this way and that 
tryin’ to git away frum that infernal 
separator gone loony. But it was 
no use. The engine had to run over 
some bearin’ vines, an’ both bearin’s 
an’ loose pods stuck to it. At last 
the engine bogged down, an’ the 
separator went into it like a buttin’ 
goat. The atom-smashers must 
have exploded, ’cause that was the 
last we saw of either machine ’cep- 
tin’ a cloud o’ smoke.” 

“Fur a week after the explosion 
ball bearin’s rained down like hail- 
stones all over Venus,” the old sour- 
dough concluded. 



TPIAT’S A LOT OF HOT AIR ! 
by 

Francis Wilson Powell 

“Yes, sir,” the brisk, young clerk 
chirped, “a fine new wagon in ex- 
change for your auto? Or would 
you rather take this jaunting car? 



PROBABIEITT ZERO 



129 



it’s the latest style, you know.” 

“I,” said the customer, "would 
like—” 

"Oh, you want a sulky, perhaps ? 
Anything to oblige. Now, sir, 
would you mind telling me just 
where you found that?” 

He pointed to the beautiful, eight- 
cylinder sedan. The customer 
opened and shut his mouth, but the 
clerk rattled right on. 

“Just sign here. That’s fine! 
We’ll deliver in the morning. But, 
as I was saying, sir, we must put 
down a good reason for your still 
having that at all. Regulations, you 
know.” 

"I,” said the customer — 

"Oh, I see. You must have been 
’way up in the mountains and didn’t 
hear about the new law. Radio 
broken ?” 

“I,” the customer tried again. 
“Oh, you young fool! Can’t you 
shut up for a moment?” 

"I beg your pardon! Of course, 
sir, you realize that discourtesy to 
a member of the Bureau of Reclam- 
ation and Assessment of New and 
Used Automobiles for the Promo- 
tion of Public Welfare and Safety 
of the World may result in a heavy 
fine. But, sir, I’m sure you are 
not familiar with the laws, so we’ll 
overlook it this time. Now, as you 
were saying — ” 

"Look,” the customer pleaded, 
“just take my car ; give me the horse 
and buggy — and 1-e-a-v-c-m-e- 

a-l-o-n-e !” ’ 

Leaving the Reclamation Office, 
the husky customer adjourned to 
“Ye Olden Coupe” and ordered a 
row of brandies set up on the bar. 

180 



After consuming the first six, he 
fell into conversation with a barfly. 

“Tell me, sonny,” he begged, 
"what’s all this idiotic monkey busi- 
ness about having to swap in your 
car for a horse and wagon? I’ve 
been out of town a long time.” 

The barfly fumbled in his pocket. 
“Got change for a twenty?” he 
asked. 

"All right,” said the customer, 
“I’ll buy you a drink. Now, let’s 
have it.” 

"Well, hrrrmmm! It’s a long 
story. My, that was smooth 
brandy !” 

The customer bought him two 
more and listened. Eventually, the 
story unfolded. 

It seems that, a few months back, 
the World Government came to the 
conclusion that the weather was 
gradually changing — at an acceler- 
ating pace. In seeking the reason 
for this, research men investigated 
all possible factors. 

It came to their attention that the 
consumption of petroleum had in- 
creased ten times during the war 
and had persisted at this rate for 
the past ten years — making a grand 
total of nearly thirty billion tons. 
Now, while the Earth itself was be- 
lieved to weigh six sextillion, six 
hundred quintillion tons, it can be 
appreciated that the consumption of 
petroleum was rapidly becoming a 
large portion of the Earth’s weight. 

“So, you see,” said the barfly, 
“that is a very serious matter.” 

“No, I don’t see,” the customer 
replied. 

“Why, of course,” the barfly re- 
torted, “they had to forbid the use 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



of petroleum. Every time you burn 
oil in your auto, you turn the heavy 
liquid into light gases. As billions 
of tons of gas escape, the weight 
of the Earth is lessened — and this 
is throwing the Earth out of its 
orbit.” 

“Oh,” weakly answered the cus- 
tomer. 



APPLESAUCE 

by 

George W. Hall 

On the way to his reward, New- 
ton’s spirit stuck his head out to 
test the ether drift. He was rather 
brutally yanked out, caught in a 
space-time warp. 

His robe somewhat awry, he 
landed on a planet belonging to a 
twin-sun system on one of the galax- 
ies. A native shaped like a cross 
between a lobster and a robot bomb 
was squatting on the nickel-iron 
ground, browsing on polar magnetic 
line forces which he snapped like 
taut elastic bands and ate like 
spaghetti. 

“Tell me all about yourself !” 
telepathed the native, amicably offer- 
ing the newcomer a few choice bits 
of meteorite. “My name is QZZZ- 
000>4 and this is planet V-2.” 

Politely Newton refused but be- 
gan talking: “My name is Newton 
and I come from Earth.” 

QZZZ-OOOyi was a wonderful 
listener and Newton let himself 
go. 

“One thing strikes me in the his- 



tory of man upon your planet Earth 
and that is the marvelous role that 
apples played in the development 
of the race,” mused QZZZ-000J4 
when Newton finally ran down. All 
you told me about your discovery 
of the laws of gravitation, differ- 
ential calculus and the corpuscle 
theory of light, I understand easily ; 
but that matter of the apples is 
beyond my comprehension. Tell me 
more about the apple!” 

“The apple?” Newton was non- 
plused. “Oh, you mean the one 
that fell and got me to thinking! 
Why, it was just an apple ... a 
fruit, you know . . . red ... I re- 
member picking it up afterwards 
and it was wormy — Ah, me ! An 
apple orchard in the spring !” 

“It is extraordinary,” said QZZZ- 
000J4 but I cannot see it. But an 



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181 



PROBABILITY ZERO 



apple must be the most wonderful 
machine! What about that Adam 
and Eve business ? It changed your 
world, didn’t it? And then that 
William Tell affair! It changed 
the world again!” 

“As a matter of fact, yes,” ad- 
mitted Newton. 

“And you say it is a small round 
thing without tubes, without elec- 
tronic or atomic elements of 
power ?” 

“Yes. Just a fruit. We eat it.” 
“Liar!” 

“Sir?” 

“Liar! A thing like that could 
not change the destiny of a race.” 
“I do not like being called a liar, 
sir. If I had some way to — ” 
“Got you there! If it is as you 
say, I will apologize. Take hold 
of my claw while I adjust this slide 
on my antenna. Third planet in 
single sun system, Milky Way 
Galaxy, I believe you said. The 
space-time warp is simple. Let’s 
go!” 

And so, instantly, they found 
themselves in an orchard on Earth 



and the year was 1944. The apples 
were ripe, red and round. 

“Sit still,” said Newton, “one 
must fall presently and you will un- 
derstand.” 

Three days passed and no apple 
fell. 

“Same old story,” growled QZZZ- 
000)4. “no matter where they come 
from they are all liars!” He ad- 
justed his antenna and disappeared. 

Two little boys came in the or- 
chard and began digging for worms. 

“Gee !” said the smallest, “I’d like 
an apple!” 

“Pa got them all counted with 
the radar,” said the other, “and 
don’t try climbing either, the elec- 
tric eye is watching.” 

“Don’t they never fall?” queried 
the first boy. 

“Heck, no ! They have been 
sprayed with that hormone dope 
that prevents dissolution of the ab- 
cission layer between the fruit stem 
and the spur!” 

“Heck!” said the first boy. 

“Heck and double Heck!” mut- 
tered Newton as he began his long 
flight up once more. 



THE END. 



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ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 





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ST ATE i j , — - « • • « • « i 




No Woman Born 

by C. L. MOORE 

She had been beautiful — before the fire. Now she was living again , 
in a sense, but as a robot. Could personality show through a robot . . . 

Illustrated by Kramer 



She had been the loveliest crea- 
ture whose image ever moved along 
the airways. John Harris, who 
was once her manager, remembered 
doggedly how beautiful she had 
been as he rose in the silent ele- 
vator toward the room where Deir- 
dre sat waiting for hitn. 

Since the theater fire that had 

134 



destroyed her a year ago, he had 
never been quite able to let him- 
self remember her beauty clearly, 
except when some old poster, half 
in tatters, flaunted her face at him, 
or a maudlin memorial program 
flashed her image unexpectedly 
across the television screen. But 
now he had to remember. 

astounding science-fiction 





The elevator came to a sighing 
stop and the door slid open. John 
Harris hesitated. He knew in his 
mind that he had to go' on, but his 
reluctant muscles almost refused 
him. He was thinking helplessly, as 
he had not allowed himself to think 
until this moment, of the fabulous 
grace that had poured through her 
wonderful dancer’s body, remem- 
bering her soft and husky voice 
with the little burr in it that had 
fascinated the audiences of the 
whole world. 

There had never been anyone so 
beautiful. 

In times before her, other ac- 
tresses had been lovely and adulated, 
but never before Deirdre’s day had 
the entire world been able to take 
one woman so wholly to its heart. 
So few outside the capitals had 
ever seen Bernhardt or the fabulous 
Jersey Lily. And the beauties of 
the movie screen had had to limit 
their audiences to those who could 
reach the theaters. But Deirdre’s 
image had once moved glowingly 
across the television screens of 
every home in the civilized world. 
And in many outside the bounds of 
civilization. Her soft, husky songs 
had sounded in the depths of jun- 
gles, her lovely, languorous body 
had woven its patterns of rhythm 
in desert tents and polar huts. The 
whole world knew every smooth mo- 
tion of her body and every cadence 
of her voice, and the way a subtle 
radiance had seemed to go on be- 
hind her features when she smiled. 

And the whole world had 
mourned her when she died in the 
theater fire. 



Harris could not quite think of 
her as other than dead, though he 
knew what sat waiting him in the 
room ahead. He kept remember- 
ing the old words James Stephens 
wrote long ago for another Deirdre, 
also lovely and beloved and un for- 
gotten after two thousand yeass. 

The time comes when our hearts sink 
utterly, 

When we remember Deirdre and her tale. 
And that her lips are dust. . . . 

There has been again no woman born 
Who was so beautiful ; not one so beauti- 
ful 

Of all the women born — 

That wasn’t quite true, of course 
• — there had been one. Or maybe, 
after all, this Deirdre who died 
only a year ago had not been beau- 
tiful in the sense of perfection. He 
thought the other one might not 
have been either, for there are al- 
ways women with perfection of fea- 
ture in the world, and they are not 
the ones that legend remembers. It 
was the light within, shining 
through her charming, imperfect 
features, that had made this Deir- 
dre’s face so lovely. No one else 
he had ever seen had anything like 
the magic of the lost Deirdre. 

Let all men go apart and mourn to- 
gether — 

No man can ever love her. Not a man 
Can dream to be her lover. . . . No man 
say — 

What could one say to her? There are 
no words .-*■ 

That one could say to her. 

No, no words at all. And it was 
going to be impossible to go through 
with this. Harris knew it over- 



Jto WOMAN BORN 



m 



whehningly just as his finger 
touched the buzzer. But the door 
opened almost instantly, and then it 
was too late. 

Maltzer stood just inside, peer- 
ing out through his heavy specta- 
cles. You could see how tensely he 
had been waiting. Harris was a 
little shocked to see that the man 
was trembling. It was hard to 
think of the confident and imper- 
turbable Maltzer, whom he had 
known briefly a year ago, as shaken 
J'ke this. He wondered if Deirdre 
herself were as tremulous with 
sheer nerves — but it was not time 
yet to let himself think of that. 

“Come in, come in,” Maltzer said 
irritably. There was no reason for 
irritation. The year’s work, so 
much of it in secrecy and solitude, 
must have tried him physically and 
mentally to the very breaking point. 

“She all right?” Harris asked in- 
anely, stepping inside. 

“Oh yes . . . yes, she’s all right.” 
Maltzer bit his thumbnail and 
glanced over his shoulder at an in- 
ner door, where Harris guessed she 
would be waiting. 

“No,” Maltzer said, as he took 
an involuntary step toward it. 
“We’d better have a talk first. 
Come over and sit down. Drink?” 

Harris nodded, and watched 
Maltzer’s hands tremble as he tilted 
the decanter. The man was clearly 
on the very verge of collapse, and 
Harris felt a sudden cold uncer- 
tainty open up in him in the one 
place where until now he had been 
oddly confident. 

“She is all right?” he demanded, 
taking the glass. 

]S(t 



“Oh yes, she’s perfect. She’s so 
confident it scares me.” Maltzer 
gulped his drink and poured an- 
other before he sat down. 

“What’s wrong, then?” 
“Nothing, I guess. Or . . . well, 
I don’t know. I’m not sure any 
more. I’ve worked toward this 
meeting for nearly a year, but now 
— well, I’m not sure it’s time yet. 
I’m just not sure.” 

He stared at Harris, his eyes 
large and indistinguishable behind 
the lenses. He was a thin, wire- 
taut man with all the bone and sinew 
showing plainly beneath the dark 
skin of his face. Thinner, now, 
than he had been a year ago when 
Harris saw him last. 

“I’ve been too close to her,” he 
said now. “I have no perspective 
any more." All I can see is my own 
work. And I'm just not sure that’s 
ready yet for you or anyone to 
see.” 

“She thinks so ?” 

“I never saw a woman so confi- 
dent.” Maltzer drank, the glass 
clicking on his teeth. He looked 
up suddenly through the distorting 
lenses. “Of course a failure now 
would mean — well, absolute col- 
lapse,” he said, 

Harris nodded. He was think- 
ing of the year of incredibly pains- 
taking work that lay behind this 
meeting, the immense fund of 
knowledge, of infinite patience, the 
secret collaboration of artists, sculp- 
tors, designers, scientists, and the 
genius of Maltzer governing them 
all as an orchestra conductor gov- 
erns his players. 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



He was thinking too, with a cer- 
tain unreasoning jealousy, of the 
strange, cold, passionless intimacy 
between Maltzer and Deirdre in that 
year, a closer intimacy than any two 
humans can ever have shared be- 
fore, In a sense the Deirdre whom 
he saw in a few minutes would be 
Maltzer, just as he thought he de- 
tected in Maltzer now and then 
small mannerisms of inflection and 
motion that had been Deirdre’s 
own. There had been between them 
a sort of unimaginable marriage 
stranger than anything that could 
ever have taken place before. 

“ — so many complications,” 

Maltzer was saying in his worried 
voice with its faintest possible echo 
of Deirdre’s lovely, cadenced 
rhythm. (The sweet, soft huski- 
ness he would never hear again.) 
“There was shock, of course. Ter- 
rible shock. And a great fear of 
fire. We had to conquer that be- 
fore we could take the first steps. 
But we did it. When you go in 
you’ll probably find her sitting be- 
fore the fire.” He caught the star- 
tled question in Harris’ eyes and 
smiled. “No, she can’t feel the 
warmth now, of course. But she 
likes to watch the flames. She’s 
mastered any abnormal fear of 
them quite beautifully.” 

“She can — ” Harris hesitated. 
“Her eyesight’s normal now?” 
“Perfect,” Maltzer said. “Per- 
fect vision was fairly simple to 
provide. After all, that sort of 
thing has already been worked out, 
in other connections. I might even 
say her vision’s a little better than 
perfect, from our own standpoint.” 



He shook his head irritably. “I’m 
not worried about the mechanics of 
the thing. Luckily they got to her > 
before’ the brain was touched at all. 
Shock was the only danger to her 
sensory centers, and we took care 
of all that first of all, as soon as 
communication could be established. 
Even so, it needed great courage 
on her part. Great courage.” He 
was silent for a moment, staring 
into his empty glass. 

“Harris,” he said suddenly, with- 
out looking up, “have I made a mis- 
take ? Should we have let her 
die?” 

Harris shook his head helplessly. 

It was an unanswerable question. 

It had tormented the whole world 
for a year now. There had been 
hundreds of answers and thousands 
of words written on the subject. 
Has anyone the right to preserve a 
brain alive when its body is de- 
stroyed? Even if a new body can 
be provided, necessarily so very un- 
like the old? 

“It’s not that she’s — ugly — now,” 
Maltzer went on hurriedly, as if 
afraid of an answer. “Metal isn’t 
ugly. And Deirdre . . . well, you’ll 
see. I tell you, I can’t see myself. 

I know the whole mechanism so 
well — it’s just mechanics to me. 
Maybe she’s — grotesque. I don’t 
know. Often I’ve wished I hadn’t 
been on the spot, with all my ideas, 
just when the fire broke out. Or 
that it could have been anyone but 
Deirdre. She was so beautiful — 
Still, if it had been someone else I 
think the whole thing might have 
failed completely. It takes more 
than just an uninjured brain. It 



NO WOMAN B OK N 



397 



takes strength and courage beyond 
common, and — well, something 
more. Something — unquenchable. 

Deirclre has it. She’s still Deirdre. 
In a way she’s still beautiful. But 
I’m not sure anybody but myself 
could see that. And you know 
what she plans?” 

.“No — what?” 

“She’s going back on the air- 
screen.” 

Harris looked at him in stunned 
disbelief. 

“She is still beautiful,” Maltzer 
told him fiercely. “She’s got cour- 
age, and a serenity that amazes me. 
And she isn’t in the least worried 
or resentful about what’s happened. 
Or afraid what the verdict of the 
public will be. But I am, Harris. 
1’tn terrified.” 

They looked at each other for a 
moment more, neither speaking. 
Then Maltzer shrugged and stood 
up. 

“She’s in there,” he said, gestur- 
ing with his glass. 

Harris turned without a word, 
not giving himself time to hesitate. 
He crossed toward the inner door. 

The room was full of a soft, 
clear, indirect light that climaxed 
in the fire crackling on a white 
tiled hearth. Harris paused inside 
the door, his heart beating thickly. 
He did not see her for a moment. 
It was a perfectly commonplace 
room, bright, light, with pleasant 
furniture, and flowers on the tables. 
Their perfume was sweet on the 
dear air. He did not see Deirdre. 

Then a chair by the fire creaked 
as she shifted her weight in it. 



The high back hid her, but she 
spoke. And for one dreadful mo- 
ment it was the voice of an automa- 
ton that sounded in the room, metal- 
lic, without inflection. 

“Hel-lo — ” said the voice. Then 
she laughed and tried again. And 
it was the old, familiar, sweet 
huskiness he had not hoped to hear 
again as long as he lived. 

In spite of himself he said, 
“Deirdre!” and her image rose be- 
fore him as if she herself had risen 
unchanged from the chair, tall, 
golden, swaying a little with her 
wonderful dancer’s poise, the lovely, 
imperfect features lighted by the 
glow that made them beautiful. It 
was the crudest thing his memory 
could have done to him. And yet 
the voice — after that one lapse, the 
voice was perfect. 

“Come and look at me, John,” 
she said. 

He crossed the floor slowly, forc- 
ing himself to move. That instant’s 
flash of vivid recollection had 
nearly wrecked his hard-won poise. 
He tried to keep his mind perfectly 
blank as he came at last to the 
verge of seeing what no one but 
Maltzer had so far seen or known 
about in its entirety. No one at 
all had known what shape would be 
forged to clothe the most beautiful 
woman on Earth, now that her 
beauty was gone. 

He had envisioned many shapes. 
Great, lurching robot forms, cylin- 
drical, with hinged arms and legs. 
A glass case with the brain float- 
ing in it and appendages to serve 
its needs. Grotesque visions, like 
nightmares come nearly true. And 



138 



ASTOUNDTXfi SCIENCE FICTION 



each more inadequate than the last, 
for what metal shape could possibly 
do more than house ungraciously 
the mind and brain that had once 
enchanted a whole world ? 

Then he came around the wing of 
the chair, and saw her. 

The human brain is often too 
complicated a mechanism to func- 
tion perfectly. Harris’ brain was 
called upon now to perform a very 
elaborate series of shifting impres- 
sions. First, incongruously, he re- 
membered a curious inhuman figure 
he had once glimpsed leaning over 
the fence rail outside a farmhouse. 
For an instant the shape had stood 
up integrated, ungainly, impossibly 
human, before the glancing eye re- 
solved it into an arrangement of 
brooms and buckets. What the eye 
had found only roughly humanoid, 
the suggestible Drain had accepted 
fully formed. It was thus now, 
with Deirdre. 

The first impression that his eyes 
and mind took from sight of her 
was shocked and incredulous, for 
his brain said to him unbelievingly, 
"This is Deirdre' She hasn’t 
changed at all!” 

Then the shift of perspective 
took over, and even more shock- 
ingly, eye and brain said, “No, not 
Deirdre — not human. Nothing but 
metal coils. Not Deirdre at all — ” 
And that Was the worst. It was like 
walking from a dream of someone 
beloved and lost, and facing anew, 
after that heartbreaking reassur- 
ance of sleep, the inflexible fact that 
nothing can bring the lost to life 
again. Deirdre was gone, and this 



was only machinery heaped in a 
flowered chair. 

Then the machinery moved, ex- 
quisitely, smoothly, with a grace as 
familiar as the swaying poise he 
remembered. The sweet, husky 
voice of Deirdre said, 

“It’s me, John darling. It really 
is, you know.” 

And it was. 

That was the third metamorpho- 
sis, and the final one. Illusion 
steadied and became factual, real. 
It was Deirdre. 

He sat down bonelessly. He had 
no muscles. Fie looked at her 
speechless and unthinking, letting 
his senses take in the sight of her 
without trying to rationalize what 
he saw. 

She was golden still. They had 
kept that much of her, the first im- 
pression of warmth and color which 
had once belonged to her sleek hair 
and the apricot tints of her skin. 
But they had had the good sense to 
go no farther. They had not tried 
to make a wax image of the lost 
Deirdre. (No woman horn who 
was so beautiful — Not one so 
beautiful, of all the women born — ) 

And so she had no face. She 
had only a smooth, delicately mod- 
eled ovoid for her head, with a . . . 
a sort of crescent-shaped mask 
across the frontal area where her 
eyes would have been if she had 
needed eyes. A narrow, curved 
quarter-moon, with the horns turned 
upward. It was filled in with some- 
thing translucent, like cloudy crys- 
tal, and tinted the aquamarine of 
the eyes Deirdre used to have. 



HO WOMAN BORN 



Through that, then, she saw the 
world. Through that she looked 
without eyes, and behind it, as be- 
hind the eyes of a human — she was. 

Except for that, she had no fea- 
tures. And it had been wise of 
those who designed her, he realized 
now. Subconsciously he had been 
dreading some clumsy attempt at 
human features that might creak 
like a marionette’s in parodies of 
animation. The eyes, perhaps, had 
had to open in the same place upon 
her head, and at the same distance 
apart, to make easy for her an ad- 
justment to the stereoscopic vision 
she used to have. But he was glad 
they had not given her two eye- 
shaped openings with glass marbles 
inside them. The mask was better. 

(Oddly enough, he did not once 
think of the naked brain that must 
lie inside the metal. The mask was 
symbol enough for the woman 
within. It was enigmatic; you did 
not know if her gaze was on you 
searchingly, or wholly withdrawn. 
And it had no variations of bril- 
liance such as once had played 
across the incomparable mobility of 
Deirdre’s face. But eyes, even hu- 
man eyes, are as a matter of fact 
enigmatic enough. They have no 
expression except what the lids im- 
part ; they take all animation from 
the features. We automatically 
watch the eyes of the friend we 
speak with, but if he happens to be 
lying down so that he speaks across 
his shoulder and his face is upside- 
down to us, quite as automatically 
we watch the mouth. The gaze 
keeps shifting nervously between 
mouth and eyes in their reversed or- 

140 



der, for it is the position in the 
face, not the feature itself, which 
we are accustomed to accept as the 
seat of the soul. Deirdre’s mask 
was in that proper place ; it was easy 
to accept it as a mask over eyes.) 

She had, Harris realized as the 
first shock quieted, a very beauti- 
fully shaped head — a bare, golden 
skull. She turned it a little, grace- 
fully upon her neck of metal, and 
he saw that the artist who shaped 
it had given her the most delicate 
suggestion of cheekbones, narrow- 
ing in the blankness below the mask 
to the hint of a human face. Not 
too much. Just enough so that 
when the head turned you saw by 
its modeling that it had moved, 
lending perspective and foreshort- 
ening to the expressionless golden 
helmet. Light did not slip uninter- 
rupted as if over the surface of a 
golden egg. Brancusi himself had 
never made anything more simple 
or more subtle than the modeling of 
Deirdre’s head. 

But all expression, of course, was 
gone. All expression had gone up 
in the smoke of the theater fire, 
with the lovely, mobile, radiant fea- 
tures which had meant Deirdre. 

As for her body, he could not 
see its shape. A garment hid her. 
But they had made no incongruous 
attempt to give her back the cloth- 
ing that once had made her famous. 
Even the softness of cloth would 
have called the mind too sharply to 
the remembrance that no human 
body lay beneath the folds, nor 
does metal need the incongruity of 
doth for its protection. Yet with- 
out garments, he realized, she would 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



have looked oddly naked, since her 
new body was humanoid, not angu- 
lar machinery. 

The designer had solved his para- 
dox by giving her a robe of very 
fine metal mesh. It hung from the 
gentle slope of her shoulders in 
straight, pliant folds like a longer 
Grecian chlamys, flexible, yet with 
weight enough of its own not to 
cling too revealingly to whatever 
metal shape lay beneath. 

The arms they had given her were 
left bare, and the feet and ankles. 
And Maltzer had performed his 
greatest miracle in the limbs of the 
new Deirdre. It was a mechanical 
miracle basically, but the eye appre- 
ciated first that he had also showed 
supreme artistry and understand- 
ing. 



Her arms were pale shining 
gold, tapered smoothly, without 
modeling, and flexible their whole 
length in diminishing metal brace- 
lets fitting one inside the other clear 
down to the slim, round wrists. 
The hands were more nearly human 
than any other feature about her, 
though they, too, were fitted to- 
gether in delicate, small sections 
that slid upon one another with the 
flexibility almost of flesh. The fin- 
gers’ bases were solider than hu- 
man, and the fingers themselves 
tapered to longer tips. 

Her feet, too, beneath the taper- 
ing broader rings of the metal 
ankles, had been constructed upon 
the model of human feet. Their 
finely tooled sliding segments gave 
her an arch and a heel and a flexible 




j NO WOMAN BORN 



>41 . 



forward section formed almost like 
the sollcrets of medieval armor. 

She looked, indeed, very much 
like a creature in armor, with her 
delicately plated limbs and her fea- 
tureless head like a helmet with a 
visor of glass, and her robe of 
chain-mail. But no knight in armor 
ever moved as Deirdre moved, or 
wore his armor upon a body of 
such inhumanly fine proportions. 
Only a knight from another world, 
. or a knight of Oberon’s court, might 
have shared that delicate likeness. 

Briefly he had been surprised at 
the smallness and exquisite propor- 
tions of her. He hacl been expect- 
ing the ponderous mass of such 
robots as he had seen, wholly au- 
tomatons. And then he realized 
that for them, much of the space 
had to be devoted to the inadequate 
mechanical brains that guided them 
about their duties. Deirdre’s brain 
still preserved and proved the crafts- 
manship of an artisan far defter 
than man. Only the body was of 
metal, and it did not seem complex, 
though he had not yet been told 
how it was motivated. 

Harris had no idea how long 
he sat staring at the figure in the 
cushioned chair. She was still 
lovely — indeed, she was still Deir- 
dre — and as he looked he let the 
careful schooling of his face relax. 
There was no need to hide his 
thought from her. 

She stirred upon the cushions, 
the long, flexible arms moving with 
a litheness that was not quite hu- 
man. The motion disturbed him 
as the body itself had not, and in 

m 



spite of himself his face froze a lit- 
tle. He had the feeling that from 
behind the crescent mask she was 
watching him very closely. 

Slowly she rose. 

The motion was very smooth. 
Also it was serpentine, as if the 
body beneath the coat of mail were 
made in the same interlocking sec- 
tions as her limbs. He had ex- 
pected and feared mechanical ri- 
gidity ; nothing had prepared him 
for this more than human supple- 
ness. 

She stood quietly, letting the 
heavy mailed folds of her garment 
settle about her. They fell together 
with a faint ringing sound, like 
small bells far off, and hung beau- 
tifully in pale golden, sculptured 
folds. He had risen automatically 
as she did. Now he faced her, 
staring. He had never seen her 
stand perfectly still, and she was not 
doing it now. She swayed just a 
bit, vitality burning inextinguish- 
ably in her brain as once it had 
burned in her body, and stolid 
immobility was as impossible to her 
as it had always been. The golden 
garment caught points of light from 
the fire and glimmered at him with 
tiny reflections as she moved. 

Then she put her featureless hel- 
meted head a little to one side, 
and he heard her laughter as fa- 
miliar in its small, throaty, inti- 
mate sound as he had ever heard 
it from her living throat. And 
every gesture, every attitude, every 
flowing of motion into motion was 
so utterly Deirdre that the over- 
whelming illusion swept his mind 
again and this was the flesh-and- 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



blood woman as dearly as if he saw 
her standing there whole once more, 
like Phoenix from the fire. 

“Well, John,” she said in the 
soft, husky, amused voice he re- 
membered perfectly. “Well, John, 
is it I?” She knew it was. Per- 
fect assurance sounded in the voice. 
“The shock will wear off, you know. 
It’ll be easier and easier as time 
goes on. I’m quite used to myself 
now. See ?” 

She turned away from him and 
crossed the room smoothly, with the 
old, poised, dancer’s glide, to the 
mirror that paneled one side of the 
room. And before it, as he had so 
often seen her preen before, he 
watched her preening now, running 
flexible metallic hands down the 
folds of her metal garment, turn- 
ing to admire herself over one metal 
shoulder, making the mailed folds 
tinkle and sway as she struck an 
arabesque position before the glass. 

His knees let him down into the 
chair she had vacated. Mingled 
shock and relief loosened all his 
muscles in him, and she was more 
poised and confident than he. 

“It’s a miracle,” he said with con- 
viction. “It’s you. But I don’t see 
how — ” He had meant, " — how, 
without face or body — ” but clearly 
he could not finish that sentence. 

She finished it for him in her own 
mind, and. answered without self- 
consciousness. “It’s motion, 
mostly,” she said, still admiring her 
own suppleness in the mirror. 
“See?” And very lightly on her 
springy, armored feet she flashed 
through an enchainment of brilliant 
steps, swinging round with a pirou- 



ette to face him. “That was what 
Maltzer and I worked out between 
us, after I began to get myself un- 
der control again.” Her voice was 
somber for a moment, remembering 
a dark time in the past. Then she 
went on, “It wasn’t easy, of course, 
but it was fascinating. You’ll 
never guess how fascinating, John ! 
We knew we couldn’t work out 
anything like a facsimile of the way 
I used to look, so we had to find 
some other basis to build on. And 
motion is the other basis of recog- 
nition, after actual physical like- 
ness.” 

She moved lightly across the car- 
pet toward the window and stood 
looking down, her featureless face 
averted a little and the light shining 
across the delicately hinted curves 
of the cheekbones. 

“Luckily,” she said, her voice 
amused, “I never was beautiful. It 
was all — well vivacity, I suppose, 
and muscular co-ordination. Years 
and years of training, and all of it 
engraved here” — she struck her 
golden helmet a light, ringing blow 
with golden knuckles — “in the habit 
patterns grooved into my brain. So 
this body . . . did he tell you? . . . 
works entirely through the brain. 
Electromagnetic currents flowing 
along from ring to ring, like this.” 
She rippled a boneless arm at him 
with a motion like flowing water. 
“Nothing holds me together — noth- 
ing! — except muscles of magnetic 
currents. And if I’d been some- 
body else — somebody who moved 
differently, why the flexible rings 
would have moved differently too, 
guided by the impulse from another 

143 



NO WOMAN BORN 



brain. I'm not conscious of doing 
anything I haven’t always done. 
'The same impulses that used to go 
out to my muscles go out now to — 
this.” And she made a shuddering, 
serpentine motion of both arms at 
him. like a Cambodian dancer, and 
then laughed wholeheartedly, the 
sound of it ringing through the 
room with such full-throated mer- 
riment that he could not help seeing 
again the familiar face crinkled 
with pleasure, the white teeth shin- 
ing. “It’s all perfectly subconscious 
now,” she told him. “It took lots 
of practice at first, of course, but 
now even my signature looks just 
as it always did — the co-ordination 
is duplicated that delicately.” She 
rippled her arms at him again and 
chuckled. 

“But the voice, too,” Harris pro- 
tested inadequately. “It’s your 
voice, Deirdre.” 

“The voice isn’t only a matter of 
throat construction and breath con- 
trol. my darling Johnnie! At least, 
so Professor Maltzer assured me a 
year ago, and I certainly haven’t any 
reason to doubt him !” She laughed 
again. She was laughing a little 
too much, with a touch of the 
bright, hysteric overexcitement he 
remembered so well. But if any 
woman ever had reason for mild 
hysteria, surely Deirdre had it now. 

The laughter rippled and ended, 
and she went on, her voice eager. 
“He says voice control is almost 
wholly a matter of hearing what 
you produce, once you’ve got ade- 
quate mechanism, of course. That’s 
why deaf people, with the same 

144 



vocal chords as ever, let their voices 
change completely and lose all in- 
flection when they’ve been deaf 
long enough. And luckily, you see, 
I’m not deaf !” 

She swung around to him. the 
folds of her robe twinkling and 
ringing, and rippled up and up a 
clear, true scale to a lovely high 
note, and then cascaded down again 
like water over a falls. But she left 
him no time for applause. “Per- 
fectly simple, you see. All it took 
was a little matter of genius from 
the professor to get it worked out 
for me! He started with a new 
variation of the old Vodor you must 
remember hearing about, years ago. 
Originally, of course, the thing was 
ponderous. You know how it 
worked — speech broken down to a 
few basic sounds and built up again 
in combinations produced from a 
keyboard. I think originally the 
sounds were a sort of ktch and a 
shooshing noise, but we’ve got it all 
worked out to a flexibility and range 
quite as good as human now. All 
I do is — well, mentally play on the 
keyboard of my . . . my sound-unit, 
I suppose it's called. It’s much 
more complicated than that, of 
course, but I’ve learned to do it un- 
consciously. And I regulate it by 
ear, quite automatically now. If 
you were— here — instead of me, and 
you’d had the same practice, your 
own voice would be coming out of 
the same keyboard and diaphragm 
instead of mine. It’s all a matter 
of the brain patterns that operated 
the body and now operate the ma- 
chinery. They send out very strong 
impulses that are stepped up as 

ASTOUNDING 8CIHNCK -FICTION 



much as necessary somewhere or 
other in here — ” Her hands waved 
vaguely over the mesh-robed body. 

She was silent a momeht, look- 
ing out the window. Then she 
turned away and crossed the floor 
to the fire, sinking again into the 
flowered chair. Her helmet-skull 
turned its mask to face him and he 
could feel a quiet scrutiny behind 
the aquamarine of its gaze. 

“It’s — odd,” she said, “being here 
in this . . . this . . . instead of a 
body. But not as odd or as alien as 
you might think. I’ve thought about 
it a lot — I’ve had plenty of time to 
think — and I’ve begun to realize 
what a tremendous force the human 
ego really is. I’m not sure I want 
to suggest it has any mystical power 
it can impress on mechanical things, 
but it does seem to have a power of 
some sort. It does instill its own 
force into inanimate objects, and 
they take on a personality of their 
own. People do impress their per- 
sonalities on the houses they live 
in, you know. I’ve noticed that 
often. Even empty rooms. Apd it 
happens with other things too, espe- 
cially, I think, with inanimate things 
that men depend on for their lives. 
Ships, for instance — they always 
have personalities of their own. 

“And planes — in wars you always 
hear of planes crippled too badly 
to fly, but struggling back anyhow 
with their crews. Even guns ac- 
quire a sort of ego. Ships and guns 
and planes are ‘she’ to the men who 
operate them and depend on them 
for their lives. It’s as if machinery 
with complicated moving parts al- 
most simulates life, and does ac- 



quire from the men who use it— 
well, not exactly life, of course — 
but a personality. I don’t know 
what. Maybe it absorbs some of 
the actual electrical impulses their 
brains throw off, especially in times 
of stress. 

“Well, after awhile I began to 
accept the idea that this new body 
of mine could behave at least as re- 
sponsively as a ship or a plane. 
Quite apart from the fact that my 
own brain controls its ‘muscles.’ I 
believe there’s an affinity between 
men and the machines they make. 
They make them out of their own 
brains, really, a sort of mental con- 
ception and gestation, and the re- 
sult responds to the minds that cre- 
ated them, and to all human minds 
that understand and manipulate 
them.” 

She stirred uneasily and smoothed 
a flexible hand along her mesh- 
robed metal thigh. “So this is my- 
self,” she said. “Metal — but me. 
And it grows more and more my- 
self the longer I live in it. It’s my 
house and the machine my life de- 
pends on, but much more intimately 
in each case than any real house or 
machine ever was before to any 
other human. And you know, I 
wonder if in time I’ll forget what 
flesh felt like — my own flesh, when 
I touched it like this — and the metal 
against the metal will be so much 
the same I’ll never even notice?” 

Harris did not try to answer her. 
He sat without moving, watching 
her expressionless face. In a mo- 
ment she went on, 

“I’ll tell you the best thing, John,” 
she said, her voice softening to the 



NO WOMAN BORN 



145 



old Intimacy he remembered so well 
that he could see superimposed 
upon the blank skull the warm, in- 
tent look that belonged with the 
voice. “I’m not going to live for- 
ever. It may not sound like a — 
best thing — but it is, John. You 
know, for awhile that was the worst 
of all, after I knew I was — after I 
woke up again. The thought of liv- 
ing on and on in a body that wasn’t 
mine, seeing everyone I knew grow 
old and die, and not being able to 
stop — 

“But Maltzer says my brain will 
probably wear out quite normally — 
except, of course, that I won’t have 
to worry about looking old! — and 
when it gets tired and stops, the 
body I’m in won’t be any longer. 
The magnetic muscles that hold it 
into my own shape and motions will 
let go when the brain lets go, and 
there’ll be nothing but a ... a pile 
of disconnected rings. If they ever 
assemble it again, it won’t be me.” 
She hesitated. “I like that, John,” 
she said, and he felt from behind 
the mask a searching of his face. 

He knew and understood that 
somber satisfaction. He could not 
put it into words; neither of them 
wanted to do that. But he under- 
stood. It was the conviction of mor- 
tality, in spite of her immortal body. 
She was not cut off from the rest of 
her race in the essence of their hu- 
manity, for though she wore a body 
of steel and they perishable flesh, 
yet she must perish too, and the 
same fears and faiths still united 
her to mortals and humans, though 
she wore the body of Oberon’s in- 
human knight. Even in her death 

nc 



she must be unique — dissolution in 
a shower of tinkling and clashing 
rings, he thought, and almost envied 
her the finality and beauty of that 
particular death — but afterward, 
oneness with humanity in however 
much or little awaited them all. 
So she could feel that this exile 
in metal was only temporary, in 
spite of everything. 

(And providing, of course, that 
the mind inside the metal did not 
veer from its inherited humanity 
as the years went by. A dweller 
in a house may impress his per- 
sonality upon the walls, but subtly 
the walls too, may impress their 
own shape upon the ego of the 
man. Neither of them thought of 
that, at the time.) 

Deirdre sat a moment longer in 
silence. Then the mood vanished 
and she rose again, spinning so 
that the robe belled out ringing 
about her ankles. She rippled an- 
other scale up and down, faultlessly 
and with the same familiar sweet- 
ness of tone that had made her 
famous. 

“So I’m going right back on the 
stage, John,” she said serenely. “I 
can still sing. I can still dance. 
I’m still myself in everything that 
matters, and I can’t imagine doing 
anything else for the rest of my 
life.” 

He could not answer without 
stammering a little. “Do you think 
. . . will they accept you, Deirdre? 
After all—” 

“They’ll accept me,” she said in 
that confident voice. “Oh, they’ll 
come to see a freak at first, of 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



course, but they'll stay to watch — 
Deirdre. And come back again and 
again just as they always did. 
You’ll see, my dear.” 

But hearing her sureness, sud- 
denly Harris himself was unsure. 
Maltzer had not been, either. She 
was so regally confident, and dis- 
appointment would 'be so deadly a 
blow at all that remained of her — 

She was so delicate a being now. 
really. Nothing but a glowing and 
radiant mind poised in metal, 
dominating it, bending the steel to 
the illusion of her lost loveliness 
with a sheer self-confidence that 
gleamed through the metal body. 
But the brain sat delicately on its 
poise of reason. She had been 
through intolerable stresses already, 
perhaps more terrible depths of 
despair and self-knowledge than 
any human brain had yet endured 
before her, for — since Lazarus him- 
self — who had come back from the 
dead ? 

But if the world did not accept 
her as beautiful, what then? If 
they laughed, or pitied her, or came 
only to watch a jointed freak per-, 
forming as if on strings where the 
loveliness of Deirdre had once 
enchanted them, what then? And 
he could not be perfectly sure they 
would not. He had known her too 
well in the flesh to see her objec- 
tively even now, in metal. Every 
inflection of her voice called up the 
vivid memory of the face that had 
flashed its evanescent beauty in 
some look to match the tone. She 
was Deirdre to Harris simply be- 
cause she had been so intimately 
familiar in every poise and attitude, 



through so many years. But peo- 
ple who knew her only slightly, or 
saw her for the first time in metal— 
what would they see? 

A marionette? Or the real grace 
and loveliness shining through? 

He had no possible way of know- 
ing. He saw her too clearly as she 
had been to see her now at all, ex- 
cept so linked with the past that she 
was not wholly metal. And he 
knew what Maltzer feared, for 
Maltzer’s psychic blindness toward 
her lay at the other extreme. He 
had never known Deirdre except 
as a machine, and he could not see 
her objectively any more than Har- 
ris could. To Maltzer she was pure 
metal, a robot his own hands and 
brain had devised, mysteriously ani- 
mated by the mind of Deirdre, to be 
sure, but to all outward seeming a 
thing of metal solely. He had 
worked so long over each intricate 
part of her body, he knew so well 
how every jointure in it was put to- 
gether. that he could not see the 
whole. He had studied many film 
records of her, of course, as she 
used to be, in order to gauge the 
accuracy of his facsimile, but this 
thing he had. made was a copy only. 
He was too close to Deirdre to see 
her. And Harris, in a way, was 
too far. The indomitable Deirdre 
herself shone so vividly through 
the metal that his mind kept super- 
imposing one upon the other. 

How would an audience react to 
her? Where in the scale between 
these two extremes would their ver- 
dict fall? 

For Deirdre. there was only one 
possible answer. 



NO WOMAN BORN 



AST— 6S 147 



“I’m not worried,” Deirdre said 
serenely, and spread her golden 
hands to the fire to watch lights 
dancing in reflection upon their 
shining surfaces. “I’m still my- 
self. I’ve always had . . . well, 
power over my audiences. Any 
good performer knows when he’s 
got it. Mine isn’t gone. I can still 
give them what I always gave, only 
now with greater variations and 
more depths than I’d ever have done 
before. Why, look — ” She gave a 
little wriggle of excitement. 

“You know the .arabesque prin- 
ciple — getting the longest possible 
distance from fingertip to toetip 
with a long, slow curve through the 
whole length? And the brace of 
the other leg and arm giving con- 
trast? Well, look at me. I don’t 
work on hinges now. I can make 
every motion a long curve if I want 
to. My . body’s different enough 
now to work out a whole new school 
of dancing. Of course there’ll be 
things I used to do that I won’t at- 
tempt now — no more dancing sur 
les point es, for instance — but the 
new things will more than balance 
the loss. I’ve been practicing. Do 
you know I can turn a hundred 
fouettes now without a flaw ? And 
I think I could go right on and turn 
a thousand, if I wanted.” 

She made the firelight flash on 
her hands, and her robe rang musi- 
cally as she moved her shoulders a 
little. “I’ve already worked out 
one new dance for myself,” she 
said. “God knows I’m no choreog- 
rapher, but I did want to experi- 
ment first. Later, you know, really 
creative men like Massanchine or 

148 



Fokhileff may want to do something 
entirely new for me — a whole new 
sequence of movements based on a 
new technique. And music— that 
could be quite different, too. Oh, 
there’s no end to the possibilities! 
Even my voice has more range and 
power. Luckily I’m not an actress 
— it would be silly to try to play 
Camille or Juliet with a cast of ordi- 
nary people. Not that I couldn’t, 
you know.” She turned her head 
to stare at Harris through the mask 
of glass. “I honestly think I could. 
But it isn’t necessary. There’s too 
much else. Oh, I’m not worried!” 

“Maltzer’s worried,” Harris re- 
minded her. 

She swung away from the fire, 
her metal robe ringing, and into 
her voice came the old note of dis- 
tress that went with a furrowing of 
her forehead and a sidewise tilt of 
the head. The head went sidewise 
as it had always done, and he could 
see the furrowed brow almost as 
clearly as if flesh still clothed her. 

“I know. And I’m worried about 
him, John. He’s worked so' aw- 
fully hard over me. This is the 
doldrums now, the let-down period, 
I suppose. I know what’s on his 
mind. He’s afraid I’ll look just 
the same to the world as I look to 
him. Tooled metal. He’s in a po- 
sition no one ever quite achieved 
before, isn’t he? Rather like God.” 
Her voice rippled a little with 
amusement. “I suppose to God we 
must look like a collection of cells 
and corpuscles ourselves. But Malt- 
zer lacks a god’s detached view- 
point.” 

“He can’t see you as I do, any- 
ASTOONDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



how,” Harris was choosing his 
words with difficulty, “I wonder, 
though — would it help him any if 
you postponed your debut awhile? 
You’ve been with him too closely, 
I think. You don't quite realize 
how near a breakdown he is. I was 
shocked when I saw him just now.” 

The golden head shook. “No. 
He’s close to a breaking point, 
maybe, but I think the only cure’s 
action. He wants me to retire and 
stay out of sight, John. Always. 
He’s afraid for anyone to see me 
except a few old friends who re- 
member me as I was. People he 
can trust to be — kind.” She laughed. 
It was very strange to hear that 
ripple of mirth from the blank, un- 
featured skull. Harris was seized 
with sudden panic at the thought of 
what reaction it might evoke in an 
audience of strangers. As if he had 
spoken the fear aloud, her voice 
denied it. “I don’t need kindness. 
And it’s no kindness to Maltzer to 
hide me under a bushel. He has 
worked too hard, I know. He’s 
driven himself to a breaking point. 
But it’ll be a complete negation of 
all he’s worked for if I hide myself 
now. You don’t know what a tre- 
mendous lot of geniuses and ar- 
tistry went into me, John. The 
whole idea from the start was to re- 
create what I’d lost so that it could 
be proved that beauty and talent 
need not be sacrificed by the de- 
struction of parts or all the body. 

“It wasn’t only for me that we 
meant to prove that. There’ll be 
others who suffer injuries that once 
might have ruined them. This was 
to end all suffering like that for- 



ever. It was Maltzer’s gift to the 
whole race as well as to me. He’s 
really a humanitarian, John, like 
most great men. He’d never have 
given up a year of his life to this 
work if it had been for any one in- 
dividual alone. He was seeing thou- 
sands of others beyond me as he 
worked. And I won’t let him ruin 
all he’s achieved because he’s afraid 
to prove it now he’s got it. The 
whole wonderful achievement will 
be worthless it I don’t take the final 
step, I think his breakdown, in 
the end, would be worse and more 
final if I never tried than if I tried 
and failed.” 

Harris sat in silence. There was 
no answer he could make to that. 
Pie hoped the little twinge of shame- 
faced jealousy he suddenly felt did 
not show, as he was reminded anew 
of the intimacy closer than marriage 
which had of necessity bound these 
two together. And he knew that 
any reaction of his would in its way 
be almost as prejudiced as Malt- 
zer’s, for a reason at once the same 
and entirely opposite. Except that 
he himself came fresh to the prob- 
lem, while Maltzer’s viewpoint was 
colored by a year of overwork and 
physical and mental exhaustion. 

“What are you going to do ?” he 
asked. 

She was standing before the fire 
when he spoke, swaying just a lit- 
tle so that highlights danced all 
along her golden body. Now she 
turned with a serpentine grace and 
sank into the cushioned chair beside 
her. It came to him suddenly that 
she was much more than humanly 



NO WOMAN BORN 



149 



graceful — quite as much as he had 
once feared she would be less than 
human. 

“I’ve already arranged for a per- 
formance,” she told him, her voice 
a little shaken with a familiar mix- 
ture of excitement and defiance. 

Harris sat up with a start. “How? 
Where ? There hasn’t been any pub- 
licity at all yet, has there? I didn’t 
know — ” 

“Now, now, Johnnie,” her 
amused voice soothed him. “You’ll 
be handling everything just as usual 
once I get started back to work — 
that is, if you still want to. But 
this I’ve arranged for myself. It’s 
. going to be a surprise. I ... I 
felt it had to be a surprise.” She 
wriggled a little among the 
cushions. “Audience psychology is 
something I’ve always felt rather 
than known, and I do feel this is 
the way. it ought to be done. There’s 
no precedent. Nothing like this 
ever happened before. I’ll have to 
go by my own intuition.” 

“You mean it’s to be a complete 
surprise ?” 

“I think it must be. I don’t want 
the audience coming in with pre- 
conceived ideas. I want them to 
see me exactly as I am now first, 
before they know who or what 
they’re Seeing. They must realize 
I can still give as good a perform- 
ance as ever before they remember 
and compare it with my past per- 
formances. I don’t want them to 
come ready to pity my handicaps — 
I haven’t got any ! — or full of mor- 
bid curiosity.’ So I’m going on the 
air after the regular eight-o’clock 
telecast of the feature from Teleo 

MO 



City. I’m just going to do one spe- 
cialty in the usual vaude program. 
It’s all been arranged. They’ll build 
up to it, of course, as the highlight 
of the evening, but they aren’t to 
say who I am until the end of the 
performance — if the audience hasn’t 
rceognized me already, by then.” 

“Audience ?” 

“Of course. Surely you haven’t 
forgotten they still play to a theater 
audience at Teleo City? That’s 
why I want to make my debut there. 
I’ve always played better when there 
were people in the studio, so I 
could gauge reactions. I think most 
performers do. Anyhow, it’s all 
arranged.” 

“Does Maltzer know?” 

She wriggled uncomfortably. 
“Not yet.” 

“But he’ll have to give his per- 
mission too, won’t he? I mean — ” 

“Now look, John! That’s an- 
other idea you and Maltzer will 
have to get out of your minds. I 
don’t belong to him. In a way he’s 
just been my doctor through a long 
illness, but I’m free to discharge 
him whenever I choose. If there 
were ever any legal disagreement, 
I suppose he’d be entitled to quite a 
lot of money for the work he’s done 
on my new body — for the body it- 
self, really, since it’s his own ma- 
chine, in one sense. But he doesn’t 
own it, or me. I’m not sure just 
how the question would be decided 
by the courts — there again, we’ve 
got a problem without precedent. 
The body may be his work, but the 
brain that makes it something more 
than a collection of metal rings is 
me, and he couldn’t restrain me 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



against my will even if he wanted 
to. Not legally, and not — ” She 
hesitated oddly and looked away. 
For the first time Harris was aware 
of something beneath the surface 
of her mind which was quite strange 
to him. 

“Well, anyhow,” she went on, 
“that question won’t come up. 
Maltzer and I have been much too 
close in the past year to clash over 
anything as essential as this. He 
knows in his heart that I’m right, 
and he won’t try to restrain me. His 
work won’t be completed until I do 
what I was built to do. And I in- 
tend to do it.” 

That strange little quiver of 
something — something un-Deirdre 
— which had so briefly trembled be- 
neath the surface of familiarity 
stuck in Harris’ mind as something 
he must recall and examine later. 
Now he said only, 

“All right. I suppose I agree 
with you. How soon are you go- 
ing to do it?” 

She turned her head so that even 
the glass mask through which she 
looked out at the world was fore- 
shortened away from him, and the 
golden helmet with its hint of sculp- 
tured cheekbone was entirely enig- 
matic. 

“Tonight,” she said. 

Maltzer’s thin hand shook so 
badly that he could not turn the 
dial. He tried twice and then 
laughed nervously and shrugged at 
Harris. 

“You get her,” he said. 

Harris glanced at his watch. “It 



isn’t time yet. She won’t be on for 
half an hour.” 

Maltzer made a gesture of vio- 
lent impatience. “Get it, get it!” 

Harris shrugged a little in turn 
and twisted the dial. On the tilted 
screen above them shadows and 
sound blurred together and then 
clarified into a somber medieval hall, 
vast, vaulted, people in bright cos- 
tume moving like pygmies through 
its dimness. Since the play con- 
cerned Mary of Scotland, the actors 
were dressed in something approxi- 
mating Elizabethan garb, but as 
every era tends to translate costume 
into terms of the current fashions, 
the women’s hair was dressed in a 
style that would have startled Eliza- 
beth, and their footgear was en- 
tirely anachronistic. 

The hall dissolved and a face 
swam up into soft focus upon the 
screen. The dark, lush beauty of 




NO WOMAN BORN 



m 



' the actress who was playing the 
Stuart queen glowed at them in 
velvety perfection from the clouds 
of her pearl-strewn hair. Maltzer 
groaned. 

“She’s competing with that,” he 
said hollowly. 

“You think she can’t?” 

Maltzer slapped the chair arms 
with angry palms. Then the quiv- 
ering of his fingers seemed sud- 
denly to strike him, and he mut- 
tered to himself, “Look at ’em! 
I’m not even fit to handle a ham- 
mer and saw.” But the mutter was 
an aside. “Of course she can’t 
compete,” he cried irritably. “She 
hasn’t any sex. She isn’t female 
any more. She doesn’t know that 
yet, but she’ll learn.” 

Harris stared at him, feeling a 
little stunned. Somehow the 
thought had not occurred to him 
before at all, so vividly had the 
illusion of the old Deirdre hung 
about the new one. 

“She’s an abstraction now,” Malt- 
zer went on, drumming his palms 
upon the chair in quick, nervous 
rhythms. “I don’t know what it’ll 
do to her, but there’ll be change. 
Remember Abelard ? She’s lost 
everything that made her essen- 
tially what the public wanted, and 
she’s going to find it out the hard 
way. After that — ” He grimaced 
savagely and was silent. 

“She hasn’t lost everything,” Har- 
ris defended. “She can dance and 
sing as well as ever, maybe better. 
She still has grace and charm 
and — ” 

“Yes, but where did the grace 
and charm come from ? Not out of 

152 



the habit patterns in her brain. No,' 
out of human contacts, out of all 
the things that stimulate sensitive 
minds to creativeness. And she’s 
lost three of her five senses. Every- 
thing she can’t see and hear is gone. 
One of the strongest stimuli to a 
woman of her type was the knowl- 
edge of sex competition. You know 
how she sparkled when a man came 
into the room? All that’s gone, 
and it was an essential. You know 
how liquor stimulated her? She’s 
lost that. She couldn’t taste food 
or drink even if she needed it. Per- 
fume, flowers, all the odors we re- 
spond to mean nothing to her now. 
She can’t feel anything with tactual 
delicacy any more. She used to 
surround herself with luxuries — 
she drew her stimuli from them — 
and that’s all gone too. She’s with- 
drawn from all physical contacts.” 

He squinted at the screen, not 
seeing it, his face drawn into lines 
like the lines of a skull. All flesh 
seemed to have dissolved off his 
bones in the past year, and Harris 
thought almost jealously that even 
in that way he seemed to be draw- 
ing nearer Deirdre in her fleshless- 
ness with every passing week. 

“Sight,” Maltzer said, “is the 
most highly civilized of the senses. 
It was the last to come. The other 
senses tie us in closely with the 
very roots of life; I think we per- 
ceive with them more keenly than 
we know. The things we realize 
through taste and smell and feeling 
stimulate directly, without a detour 
through the centers of conscious 
thought. You know how often a 
taste or odor will recall a memory 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE- FICTION 



to you so subtly you don’t know 
exactly what caused it? We need 
those primitive senses to tie us in 
with nature and the race. Through 
those ties Deirdre drew her vitality 
without realizing it. Sight is a 
cold, intellectual thing compared 
with the other senses. But it’s all 
she has to draw on now. She isn’t 
a human being any more, and I 
think what humanity is left in her 
will drain out little by little and 
never be replaced. Abelard, in a 
way, was a prototype. But Deir- 
dre’s loss is complete.” 

“She isn’t human,” Harris agreed 
slowly. “But she isn’t pure robot 
either. She’s something somewhere 
between the two, and I think it’s a 
mistake to try to guess just where, 
or what the outcome will be.” 

“I don’t have to guess,” Maltzer 
said in a grim voice. “I know. I 
wish I’d let her die. I’ve done 
something to her a thousand times 
worse than the fire ever could. I 
should have let her die in it.” 

“Wait,” said Harris. “Wait and 
see. I think you’re wrong.” 

On the television screen Mary of 
Scotland climbed the scaffold to her 
doom, the gown of traditional scar- 
let clinging warmly to supple young 
curves as anachronistic in their way 
as the slippers beneath the gown, 
for — as everyone but playwrights 
knows — Mary was well into middle 
age before she died. Gracefully 
this latter-day Mary bent her head, 
sweeping the long hair aside, kneel- 
ing to the block. 

Maltzer watched stonily, seeing 
another woman entirely. 



“I shouldn’t have let her,” he was 
muttering. “I shouldn’t have let 
her do it.” 

“Do you really think you’d have 
stopped her if you could?” Harris 
asked quietly. And the other man 
after a moment's pause shook his 
head jerkily. 

“No, I suppose not. I keep 
thinking if I worked and waited a 
little longer maybe I could make it 
easier for her, but — no, I suppose 
not. She’s got to face them sooner 
or later, being herself.” He stood 
up abruptly, shoving back his chair. 
“If she only weren’t so ... so 
frail. She doesn’t realize how deli- 
cately poised her very sanity is. 
We gave her what we could — the 
artists and the designers and I all 
gave our very best — but she’s so 
pitifully handicapped even with all 
we could do. She’ll always be an 
abstraction and a ... a freak, cut 
off from the world by handicaps 
worse in their way than anything 
any human being ever suffered be- 
fore. Sooner or later she’ll realize 
it. And then — ” He began to pace 
up and down with quick, uneven 
steps, striking his hands together. 
His face was twitching with a little 
tic that drew up one eye to a squint 
and released it again at irregular 
intervals. Harris could see how 
very near collapse the man was. 

“Can you imagine what it’s like ?” 
Maltzer demanded fiercely. “Penned 
into a mechanical body like that, 
shut out from all human contacts 
except what leaks in by way of 
sight and sound? To know you 
aren’t human any longer? She’s 
been through shocks enough al- 

153 



NO WOMAN BORN 



ready. When that shock fully hits 
her—’' 

“Shut up,” said Harris roughly. 
“You won’t do her any good if you 
break down yourself. Look — the 
vaude’s starting.” 

Great golden curtains had swept 
together over the unhappy Queen 
of Scotland and were parting again 
now, all sorrow and frustration 
wiped away once more as cleanly 
as the passing centuries had already 
expunged them. Now a line of tiny 
dancers under the tremendous arch 
of the stage kicked and pranced 
with the precision of little mechani- 
cal dolls too small and perfect to 
be real. Vision rushed down upon 
them and swept along the row, face 
after stiffly smiling face racketing 
by like fence pickets. Then the 
sight rose into the rafters and 
looked down upon them from a 
great height, the grotesquely fore- 
shortened figures still prancing in 
perfect rhythm even from this in- 
human angle. 

There was applause from an in- 
visible audience. Then someone 
came out and did a dance with 
lighted torches that streamed long, 
weaving ribbons of fire among 
clouds of what looked like cotton 
wool but was most probably as- 
bestos. Then a company in gor- 
geous » pseudo-period costumes pos- 
tured r its way through the new 
singing ballet form of dance, 
roughly following a plot which had 
been announced as Les Sylphides, 
but had little in common with it. 
Afterward the precision dancers 
came on again, solemn and charm- 

15* 



ing as performing dolls. 

Maltzer began to show signs of 
dangerous tension as act succeeded 
act. Deirdre’s was to^e the last, 
of course. It seemed very long 
indeed before a face in close-up 
blotted out the stage, and a master 
of ceremonies with features like an 
amiable marionette’s announced a 
very special number as the finale. 
His voice was almost cracking with 
excitement — perhaps he, too, had 
not been told until a moment before 
what lay in store for the audience. 

Neither of the listening men 
heard what it was he said, but both 
were conscious of a certain inde- 
finable excitement rising among the 
audience, murmurs and rustlings 
and a mounting anticipation as if 
time had run backward here and 
knowledge of the great surprise had 
already broken upon them. 

Then the golden curtains ap- 
peared again.' They quivered and 
swept apart on long upward arcs, 
and between them the stage was 
full of a shimmering golden haze. 
It was, Harris realized in a mo- 
ment, simply a series of gauze cur- 
tains, but the effect was one of 
strange and wonderful anticipation, 
as if something very splendid must 
be hidden in the haze. The world 
might have looked like this on the 
first morning of creation, before 
heaven and earth took form in the 
mind of God. It was a singularly 
fortunate choice of stage set in its 
symbolism, though Harris won- 
dered how much necessity had fig- 
ured in its selection, for there could 
not have been much time to prepare 
an elaborate set. 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



The audience sat perfectly silent, 
and the air was tense. This was 
no ordinary pause before an act. 
No one had been told, surely, and 
yet they seemed to guess — 

The shimmering haze trembled 
and began to thin, veil by veil. Be- 
yond was darkness, and what looked 
like a row of shining pillars set 
in a balustrade that began gradu- 
ally to take shape as the haze drew 
back in shining folds. Now they 
could see that the balustrade curved 
up from left and right to the head 
of a sweep of stairs. Stage and 
stairs were carpeted in black vel- 
vet ; black velvet draperies hung 
just ajar behind the balcony, with 
a glimpse of dark sky beyond them 
trembling with dim synthetic stars. 

The last curtain of golden gauze 
withdrew. The stage was empty. 
Or it seemed empty. But even 
through the aerial distances between 
this screen and the place it mir- 
rored, Harris thought that the audi- 
ence was not waiting for the per- 
former to come on from the wings. 
There was no rustling, no coughing, 
no sense of impatience. A presence 
upon the stage was in command 
from the first drawing of the cur- 
tains; it filled the theater with its 
calm domination. It gauged its tim- 
ing, holding the audience as a con- 
ductor with lifted baton gathers 
and holds the eyes of his orchestra. 

For a moment everything was 
motionless upon the stage. Then, 
at the head of the stairs, where the 
two curves of the pillared balustrade 
swept together, a figure stirred. 

Until that moment she had seemed 
another shining column in the row. 



Now she swayed deliberately, light 
catching and winking and running 
molten along her limbs and her 
robe of metal mesh. She swayed 
just enough to show that she was 
there. Then, with every eye upon 
her, she stood quietly to let them 
look their fill. The screen did not 
swoop to a close-up upon her. Her 
enigma remained inviolate and the 
television watchers saw her no more 
clearly than the audience in the 
theater. 

Many must have thought her at 
first some wonderfully animate ro- 
bot, hung perhaps from wires invisi- 
ble against the velvet, for certainly 
she was no woman dressed in metal 
— her proportions were too thin and 
fine for that. And perhaps the im- 
pression of robotism was what she 
meant to convey at first. She stood 
quiet, swaying just a little, a masked 
and inscrutable figure, faceless, very 
slender in her robe that hung in 
folds as pure as a Grecian chlamys, 
though she did not look Grecian at 
all. In the visored golden helmet 
and the robe of mail that odd like- 
ness to knighthood was there again, 
with its implications of medieval 
richness behind the simple lines. 
Except that in her exquisite slim- 
ness she called to mind no human 
figure in armor, .not even the com- 
parative delicacy of a St. Joan. It 
was the chivalry and delicacy of 
some other world implicit in her 
outlines. 

A breath of surprise had rippled 
over the audience when she moved. 
Now they were tensely silent again, 
waiting. And the tension, the an- 

155 



NO WOMAN BORN 



tioipation, was far deeper than the 
surface importance of the scene 
could ever have evoked. Even those 
who thought her a manikin seemed 
to feel the forerunning of greater 
revelations. 

Now she swayed and came 
slowly down the steps, moving with 
a suppleness just a little better than 
human. The swaying strengthened. 
By the time she reached the stage 
floor she was dancing. But it was 
no dance that any human creature 
could ever have performed. The 
long, slow, languorous rhythms of 
her body would have been impos- 
sible to a figure hinged at its joints 
as human figures hinge. (Harris 
remembered incredulously that he 
had feared once to find her jointed 
like a mechanical robot. But it 
was humanity that seemed, by con- 
trast, jointed and mechanical now.) 

The languor and the rhythm of 
her patterns looked impromptu, as 
all good dances should, but Harris 
knew what hours of composition 
and rehearsal must lie behind it, 
what laborious graving into her 
brain of strange new pathways, the 
first to replace the old ones and 
govern the mastery of metal limbs. 

To and fro over the velvet car- 
pet, against the velvet background, 
she wove the intricacies of her ser- 
pentine dance, leisurely and yet 
with such hypnotic effect that the 
air seemed full of looping rhythms, 
as if her long, tapering limbs had 
left their own replicas hanging upon 
the air and fading only slowly as 
she moved away. In her mind, Har- 
ris knew, the stage was a whole, a 
background to be filled in com- 

16 « 



pletely with the measured patterns 
of her dance, and she seemed almost 
to project that completed pattern 
to her audience so that they saw 
her everywhere at once, her golden 
rhythms fading upon the air long 
after she had gone. 

Now there was music, looping 
and hanging in echoes after her 
like the shining festoons she wove 
with her body. But it was no 
orchestral music. She was hum- 
ming, deep and sweet and word- 
lessly, as she glided her easy, in- 
tricate path about the stage. And 
the volume of the music was amaz- 
ing. It seemed to fill the theater, 
and it was not amplified by hidden 
loudspeakers. You could tell that. 
Somehow, until you heard the music 
she made, you had never realized 
before the subtle distortions that 
amplification puts into music. This 
was utterly pure and true as per- 
haps no ear in all her audience had 
ever heard music before. 

While she danced the audience 
did not seem to breathe. Perhaps 
they were beginning already to sus- 
pect who and what it was that moved 
before them without any fanfare 
of the publicity they had been half- 
expecting for weeks now. And yet, 
without the publicity, it was not 
easy to believe the dancer they 
watched was not some cunningly 
motivated manikin swinging on 
unseen wires about the stage. 

Nothing she had done yet had 
been human. The dance was no 
dance a human being could have 
performed. The music she hummed 
came from a throat without vocal 
chords. But now the long, slow 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



rhythms were drawing to their close, 
the pattern tightening in to a finale. 
And she ended as inhumanly as she 
had danced, willing them not to in- 
terrupt her with applause, dominat- 
ing them now as she had always 
done. For her implication here was 
that a machine might have per- 
formed the dance, and a machine 
expects no applause. If they 
thought unseen operators had put 
her through those wonderful paces, 
they would wait for the operators 
to appear for their bows. But the 
audience was obedient. It sat si- 
lently, waiting for what came next. 
But its silence was tense and breath- 
less. 

The dance ended as it had begun. 
Slowly, almost carelessly, she swung 
up the velvet stairs, moving with 
rhythms as perfect as her music. 
But when she reached the head of 
the stairs she turned to face her 
audience, and for a moment stood 
motionless, like a creature of metal, 
without volition, the hands of the 
operator slack upon its strings. 

Then, startlingly, she laughed. 

It was lovely laughter, low and 
sweet and full-throated. She threw 
her head back and let her body 
sway and her shoulders shake, and 
the laughter, like the music, filled 
the theater, gaining volume from 
the great hollow of the roof and 
sounding in the ears of every lis- 
tener, not loud, but as intimately as 
if each sat alone with the woman 
who laughed. 

And she was a woman now. Hu- 
manity had dropped over her like 
a tangible garment. No one who 



had ever heard that laughter before 
could mistake it here. But before 
the reality of who she was had quite 
time to dawn upon her listeners she' 
let the laughter deepen into music, 
as no human voice could have done. 
She was humming a familiar re- 
frain close in the ear of every 
hearer. And the humming in turn 
swung into words. She sang in her 
clear, light, lovely voice: 

“The yellow rose of Eden, is blooming 
in my heart — ” 

It was Deirdre’s song. She had 
sung it first upon the airways a 
month before the theater fire that 
had consumed her. It was a com- 
monplace little melody, simple 
enough to take first place in the 
fancy of a nation that had always 
liked its songs simple. But it had 
a certain sincerity too, and no taint 
of the vulgarity of tune and rhythm 
that foredooms so many popular 
songs to oblivion after their novelty 
fades. 

No one else was ever able to sing 
it quite as Deirdre did. It had been 
identified with her so closely that 
though for awhile after her accident 
singers tried to make it a memorial 
for her, they failed so conspicuously 
to give it her unmistakable flair that 
the song died from their sheer in- 
ability to sing it. No one ever 
hummed the tune without thinking 
of her and the pleasant, nostalgic- 
sadness of something lovely and 
lost. 

But it was not a sad song now. 
If anyone had doubted whose brain 
and ego motivated this shining metal 



NO WOMAN BORN 



16 ? 



suppleness, they could doubt no 
longer. For the voice was Deirdre, 
i and the song. And the lovely, poised 
i grace of her mannerisms that make 
up recognition as certainly as sight 
of a familiar face. 

She had not finished the first line 
of her song before the audience 
knew her. 

And they did not let her finish. 
The accolade of their interruption 
was a tribute more eloquent than 
polite waiting could ever have been. 
First a breath of incredulity rip- 
pled' over the theater, and a long, 
sighing gasp that reminded Harris 
irrelevantly as he listened to the 
gasp which still goes up from mati- 
nee audiences at the first glimpse 
of the fabulous Valentino, so many 
generations dead. But this gasp did 
not sigh itself away and vanish. 
Tremendous tension lay behind it, 
and the rising tide of excitement 
rippled up in little murmurs and 
• spatterings of applause that ran to- 
gether into one overwhelming roar. 
It shook the theater. The television 
screen trembled and blurred a little 
to the volume of that transmitted 
applause. 

Silenced before it, Deirdre stood 
gesturing on the stage, bowing and 
bowing as the noise rolled up about 
her, shaking perceptibly with the 
triumph of her own emotion. 

Harris had an intolerable feeling 
that she was smiling radiantly and 
that the tears were pouring down 
her cheeks. He even thought, just 
as Maltzer leaned forward to switch 
off the screen, that she was blowing 
kisses over the audience in the time- 
honored gesture of the grateful 



actress, her golden arms shining as 
she scattered kisses abroad from the 
featureless helmet, the face that had 
no mouth. 

“Well?” Harris said, not with- 
out triumph. 

Maltzer shook his head jerkily, 
the glasses unsteady on his nose 
so that the blurred eyes behind them 
seemed to shift. 

“Of course they applauded, you 
fool,” he said in a savage voice. 
“I might have known they would 
under this set-up. It doesn’t prove 
anything. Oh, she was smart to 
surprise them — I admit that. But 
they were applauding themselves as 
much as her. Excitement, grati- 
tude for letting them in on a his- 
toric performance, mass hysteria — 
you know. It’s from now on the 
test will come, and this hasn’t helped 
any to prepare her for it. Morbid 
curiosity when the news gets out — 
people laughing when she forgets 
she isn’t human. And they will, 
you know. There are always those 
who will. And the novelty wearing 
off. The slow draining away of 
humanity for lack of contact with 
any human stimuli any more — ” 

Harris remembered suddenly and 
reluctantly the moment that after- 
noon which he had shunted aside 
mentally, to consider later. The 
sense of something unfamiliar be- 
neath the surface of Deirdre’s 
speech. Was Maltzer right? Was 
the drainage already at work? Or 
was there something deeper than 
this obvious answer to the ques- 
tion? Certainly she had been 
through experiences too terrible for 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



ordinary people to comprehend. 
Scars might still remain. Or, with 
her body, had she put on a strange, 
metallic something of the mind, that 
spoke to no sense which human 
minds could answer? 

For a few minutes neither of 
them spoke. Then Maltzer rose 
abruptly and stood looking down at 
Harris with an abstract scowl. 

“I wish you’d go now,” he said. 
Harris glanced up at him, star- 
tled. Maltzer began to pace again, 
his steps quick and uneven. Over 
his shoulder he said, 

“I’ve made up my mind, Harris. 
I’ve got to put a stop to this.” 
Harris rose. “Listen,” he said. 
“Tell me one thing. What makes 
you so certain you’re right? Can 
you deny that most of it’s specula- 
tion — hearsay evidence ? Remem- 
ber, I talked to Deirdre, and she 
was just as sure as you are in the 
opposite direction. Have you any 
real reason for what you think ?” 
Maltzer took his glasses off and 
rubbed his nose carefully, taking a 
long time about it. He seemed re- 
luctant to answer. But when he 
did, at last, there was a confidence 
in his voice Harris had not ex- 
pected. 

“I have a reason,” he said. “But 
you won’t believe it. Nobody 
would.” 

“Try me.” 

Maltzer shook his head. “No- 
body could believe it. No two peo- 
ple were ever in quite the same 
relationship before as Deirdre and 
1 have been. I helped her come 
back out of complete — oblivion. I 
knew her before she had voice or 



hearing. She was only a frantic 
mind when I first made contact with 
her, half insane with all that had 
happened and fear of what would 
happen next. In a very literal sense 
she was reborn out of that condi- 
tion, and I had to guide her through 
every step of the way. I came to 
know her thoughts before she 
thought them. And once you’ve 
been that close to another mind, 
you don’t lose the contact easily.” 
He put the glasses back on and 
looked blurrily at Harris through 
the heavy lenses. “Deirdre is wor- 
ried,” he said. “I know it. You 
won’t believe me, but I can — well, 
sense it. I tell you, I’ve been too 
close to her very mind itself to make 
any mistake. You don’t see it, 
maybe. Maybe even she doesn’t 
know it yet. But the worry’s there. 
When I’m with her. I feel it. And 
I don’t want it to come any nearer 
the surface of her mind than it’s 
come already. I’m going to put a 
stop to this before it’s too late.” 

Harris had no comment for that. 
It was too entirely outside his own 
experience. He said nothing for a 
moment. Then he asked simply, 
“How?” 

“I’m not sure yet. I’ve got to 
decide before she comes back. And 
I want to see her alone.” 

“I think you’re wrong,” Harris 
told him quietly. “I think you’re 
imagining things. I don’t think you 
can stop her.” 

Maltzer gave him a slanted glance. 
“I can stop her,” he said, in a 
curious voice. He w.ent on quickly, 
“She has enough already — she’s 
nearly human. She can live nor- 



KO WOMAN BORN 



159 



mally as other people live, without 
going back on the screen. Maybe 
this taste of it will be enough. I’ve 
got to convince her it is. If she 
retires now, she’ll never guess how 
cruel her own audiences could be, 
and maybe that deep sense of — dis- 
tress, uneasiness, whatever it is — 
won’t come to the surface. It 
mustn’t. She’s too fragile to stand 
that.” He slapped his hands to- 
gether sharply. “I’ve got to stop 
her. Bor her own sake I’ve got to 
do it!” He swung round again to 
face Harris. “Will you go now?” 

Never in his life had Harris 
wanted less to leave a place. Briefly 
he thought of saying simply, “No 
I won’t.” But he had to admit in 
his own mind that Maltzer was at 
least partly right. This was a mat- 
ter between Deirdre and her cre- 
ator, the culmination, perhaps, of 
that year’s long intimacy so like 
marriage that this final trial for su- 
premacy was a need he recognized. 

He would not, he thought, forbid 
the showdown if he could. Per- 
haps the whole year had been build- 
ing up to this one moment between 
them in which one or the other 
must prove himself victor. Neither 
was very well stable just now, after 
the long strain of the year past. It 
might very well be that the mental 
salvation of one or both hinged 
upon the outcome of the clash. But 
because each was so strongly moti- 
vated not by selfish concern but 
by solicitude for the other in this 
strange combat, Harris knew he 
must leave them to settle the thing 
alone. 

He was in the street and hailing 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-£'ICTI0N 



a taxi before the full significance 
of something Maltzer had said came 
to him. “I can stop her,” he had 
declared, with an odd inflection in 
his voice. 

Suddenly Harris felt cold. Malt- 
zer had made her — of course he 
could stop her if he chose. Was 
there some key in that supple 
golden body that could immobilize 
it at its maker’s will? Could she 
be imprisoned in the cage of her 
own body? No body before in all 
history, he thought, could have been 
designed more truly to be a prison 
for its mind than Deirdre’s, if Malt- 
zer chose to turn the key that locked 
her in. There must be many ways 
to do it. He could simply withhold 
whatever source of nourishment 
kept her brain alive, if that were 
the way he chose. 

But Harris could not believe he 
would do it. The man wasn’t in- 
sane. He would not defeat his own 
purpose. His determination rose 
from his solicitude for Deirdre; he 
would not even in the last extremity 
try to save her by imprisoning her 
in the jail of her own skull. 

For a moment Harris hesitated on 
the curb, almost turning back. But 
what could he do? Even granting 
that Maltzer would resort to such 
tactics, self-defeating in their very 
nature, how could any man on earth 
prevent him if he did it subtly 
enough ? But he never would. Har- 
ris knew he never would. He got 
into his cab slowly, frowning. He 
would see them both tomorrow. 

He did not. Harris was swamped 
with excited calls about yesterday’s 



performance, but the message he 
was awaiting did not come. The 
day went by very slowly. Toward 
evening he surrendered and called 
Maltzer’s apartment. 

It was Deirdre's face that an- 
swered, and for once he saw no 
remembered features superimposed 
upon the blankness of her helmet. 
Masked and faceless, she looked at 
him inscrutably. 

“Is everything all right?” he 
asked, a little uncomfortable. 

“Yes, of course,” she said, and 
her voice was a bit metallic for the 
first time, as if she were thinking 
so deeply of some other matter that 
she did not trouble to pitch it prop- 
erly. “I had a long talk with Malt- 
zer last night, if that’s what you 
mean. You know what he wants. 
But nothing’s been decided yet. ' 

Harris felt oddly rebuffed by the 
sudden realization of the metal of 
her. It was impossible to read any- 
thing from face or voice. Each had 
its mask. 

“What are you going to do?” he 
asked. 

“Exactly as I’d planned,” she told 
him, without inflection. 

Harris floundered a little. Then, 
with an effort at practicality, he 
said, “Do you want me to go to 
work on bookings, then?” 

She shook the delicately modeled 
skull. “Not yet. You saw the re- 
views today, of course. They — did 
like me.” It was an understatement, 
and for the first time a note of 
warmth sounded in her voice. But 
the preoccupation was still there, 
too. “I’d already planned to make 
them wait awhile after my first per- 

i«i 



NO WOMAN BOHN 



\ formance,” she went on. “A couple 
of weeks, anyhow. You remember 
that little farm of mine in Jersey, 
John? I’m going over today. I 
won’t see anyone except the serv- 
ants there. Not even Maltzer. Not 
even you. I’ve got a lot to think 
about. Maltzer has agreed to let 
everything go until we’ve both 
thought things over. He’s taking 
a rest, too. I’ll see you the moment 
I get back, John. Is that all right ?” 

She blanked out almost before he 
had time to nod and while the be- 
ginning of a stammered argument 
was still on his lips. He sat there 
staring at the screen. 

The two weeks that went by be- 
fore Maltzer called him again were 
the longest Harris had ever spent. 
He thought of many things in the 
interval. He believed he could sense 
in that last talk with Deirdre some- 
thing of the inner unrest that Malt- 
zer had spoken of — more an abstrac- 
tion than a distress, but some 
thought had occupied her mind 
which she would not — or was it 
that she could not? — share even 
with her closest confidants. He 
even wondered whether, if her 
mind was as delicately poised as 
Maltzer feared, one would ever 
know whether or not it had slipped. 
There was so little evidence one 
way or the other in the unchanging 
outward form of her. 

Most of all he wondered what 
two weeks in a new environment 
would do to her untried body and 
newly patterned brain. If Maltzer 
were right, then there might be 
some perceptible — drainage — by the 

363 



time they met again. He tried not 
to think of that. 

Maltzer televised him on the 
morning set for her return. He 
looked very bad. The rest must 
have been no rest at all. His face 
was almost a skull now, and the 
blurred eyes behind their lenses 
burned. But he seemed curiously at 
peace, in spite of his appearance. 
Harris thought he had reached some 
decision, but whatever it was had 
not stopped his hands from shaking 
or the nervous tic that drew his face 
sidewise into a grimace at intervals. 

“Come over,” he said briefly, 
without preamble. “She’ll be here 
in half an hour.” And he blanked 
out without waiting for an answer. 

When Harris arrived, he was 
standing by the window looking 
down and steadying his trembling 
hands on the sill. 

“I can’t stop her,” he said in a 
monotone, and again without pre- 
amble. Harris had the impression 
that for the two weeks his thoughts 
must have run over and over the 
same track, until any spoken word 
was simply a vocal interlude in the 
circling of his mind. “I couldn’t 
do it. I even tried threats, but she 
knew I didn’t mean them. There’s 
only one' way out, Harris.” He 
glanced up briefly, hollow-eyed be- 
hind the lenses. “Never mind. I’ll 
tell you later.” 

“Did you explain everything to 
her that you did to me ?” 

“Nearly all. I even taxed her 
with that . . . that sense of distress 
I know she feels. She denied it. 
She was lying. We both knew. It 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



was worse after the performance 
than before. When I saw her that 
night, I tell you I knew — she senses 
something wrong, but she won’t ad- 
mit it.” He shrugged. “Well — ” 

Faintly in the silence they heard 
the humming of the elevator de- 
scending from the helicopter plat- 
form on the roof. Both men turned 
to the door. 

She had not changed'at all. Fool- 
ishly, Harris was a little surprised. 
.Then he caught himself and re- 
membered that she would never 
change — never, until she died. He 
himself might grow white-haired 
and senile; she would move before 
him then as she moved now, supple, 
golden, enigmatic. 

Still, he thought she caught her 
breath a little when she saw Malt- 
zer and the depths of his swift de- 
generation. She had no breath to 
catch, but her voice was shaken as 
she greeted them. 

“I’m glad you’re both here,” she 
said, a. slight hesitation in her 
speech. “It’s a wonderful day out- 
side. Jersey was glorious. I’d for- 
gotten how lovely it is in summer. 
Was the sanitarium any good, 
Maltzer ?” 

He jerked his head irritably and 
did not answer. She went on talk- 
ing in a light voice, skimming the 
surface, saying nothing important. 

This time Harris saw her as he 
supposed her audiences would, even- 
tually, when the surprise had worn 
off and the image of the living 
Deirdre faded from memory. She 
was all metal now, the Deirdre they 
would know from today on. And 



she was not less lovely. She was 
not even less human — yet. Her 
motion was a miracle of flexible 
grace, a pouring of suppleness along 
every limb. (From now on, Har- 
ris realized suddenly, it was her 
body and not her face that would 
have mobility to express emotion; 
she must act with her limbs and her 
lithe, robed torso.) 

But there was something wrong. 
Harris sensed it almost tangibly in 
her inflections, her elusiveness, the 
way she fenced with words. This 
was what Maltzer had meant, this 
was what Harris himself had felt 
just before she left for the country. 
Only now it was strong — certain. 
Between them and the old Deirdre 
whose voice still spoke to them a 
veil of — detachment — had been 

drawn. Behind it she was in dis- 
tress. Somehow, somewhere, she 
had made some discovery that af- 
fected her profoundly. And Harris 
was terribly afraid that he knew 
what the discovery must Ire. Malt- 
zer was right. 

He was still leaning against the 
window, staring out unseeingly over 
the vast panorama of New York, 
webbed with traffic bridges, wink- 
ing with sunlit glass, its vertiginous 
distances plunging downward into 
the blue shadows of Earth-level. He 
said now, breaking into the light- 
voiced chatter, 

“Are you all right, Deirdre?” 

She laughed. It was lovely 
laughter. She moved lithely across 
the room, sunlight glinting on her 
musical mailed robe, and stooped to 
a cigarette box on a table, tier fin- 
gers were deft. 



tea 



NO WOMAN BORN 



''Have one ?” she said, and carried 
the box to Maltzer. He let her 
put the brown cylinder between his 
lips and hold a light to it, but he 
did not seem to be noticing what he 
did. She replaced the box and then 
crossed to a mirror on the far wall 
and began experimenting with a 
series of gliding ripples that wove 
patterns of pale gold in the glass. 
"Of course I’m all right,” she said. 

“You’re lying.” 

Deirdre did not turn. She was 
watching him in the mirror, but the 
ripple of her motion went on 
slowly, languorously, undisturbed. 

“No,” she told them both. 

Maltzer drew deeply on his ciga- 
rette. Then with a hard pull he 
unsealed the window and tossed the 
smoking stub far out over the gulfs 
below. He said, 

“You can’t deceive me, Deirdre.” 
His voice, suddenly, was quite calm. 
“I created you, my dear. I know. 
I’ve sensed that uneasiness in you 
growing ancl growing for a long 
while now. It’s much stronger to- 
day than it was two weeks ago. 
Something happened to you in the 
country. I don’t know what it was, 
but you’ve changed. Will you ad- 
mit to yourself what it is, Deirdre? 
Have you realized yet that you must 
not go back on the screen?” 

“Why, no,” said Deirdre, still not 
looking at him except obliquely, in 
the glass. Her gestures were slower 
now, weaving lazy patterns in the 
air. “No, I haven’t changed my 
mind.” 

She was all metal — oytwardly. 
She was taking unfair advantage of 
her own metai-hood. She had with- 



drawn far within, behind the mask 
of her voice and her facelessness. 
Even her body, whose involuntary 
motions might have betrayed what 
she was feeling, in the only way 
she could be subject to betrayal 
now, she was putting through ritual 
motions that disguised it completely. 
As long as these looping, weaving 
patterns occupied her, no one had 
any way of guessing even from her 
motion what went on in the hidden 
brain inside her helmet. 

Harris was struck suddenly ancl 
for the first time with the complete- 
ness of her withdrawal. When he 
had seen her last in this apartment 
she had been wholly Deirdre, not 
masked at all, overflowing the metal 
with the warmth and ardor of the 
woman he had known so well. Since 
then — since the performance on the 
stage — he had not seen the familiar 
Deirdre again. Passionately he 
wondered why. Had she begun to 
suspect even in her moment of tri- 
umph what a fickle master an audi- 
ence could be? Had she caught, 
perhaps, the sound of whispers and 
laughter among some small portion 
of her watchers, though the great 
majority praised her? 

Or was Maltzer right? Perhaps 
Harris’ first interview with her had 
been the last bright burning of the 
lost Deirdre, animated by excite- 
ment and the pleasure of meeting 
after so long a time, animation sum- 
moned up in a last strong effort to 
convince him. Now she was gone, 
but whether in self-protection 
against the possible cruelties of hu- 
man beings, or whether in with- 
drawal to metal-hood, he could not 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCR-FICTION 



guess. Humanity might be draining 
out of her fast, and the brassy taint 
of metal permeating the brain it 
housed. 

Maltzer laid his trembling hand 
on the edge of the opened window 
and looked out. He said in a deep- 
ened voice, the querulous note gone 
for the first time, 

“I’ve made a terrible mistake, 
Deirdre. I’ve done you irreparable 
harm.” He paused a moment, but 
Deirdre said nothing. Harris dared 
not speak. In a moment Maltzer 
went on. “I’ve made you vulner- 
able, and given you no weapons to 
fight your enemies with. And the 
human race is your enemy, my dear, 
whether you admit it now or later. 
1 think you know that. I think it’s 
why you’re so silent. I think you 
must have suspected it on the stage 
two weeks ago, and verified it in 
Jersey while you were gone. They’re 
going to hate you, after awhile, be- 
cause you are still beautiful, and 
they’re going to persecute you be- 
cause you are different — and help- 
less. Once the novelty wears off, 
my dear, your audience will be sim- 
ply a mob.” 

He was not looking at her. He 
had bent forward a little, looking 
out the window and down. His 
hair stirred in the wind that blew 
very strongly up this high, and 
whined thinly around the open edge 
of the glass. 

“I meant what I did for you,” 
he said, “to be for everyone who 
meets with accidents that might have 
ruined them. I should have known 
my gift would mean worse ruin 




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NO WOMAN BORN 



165 



than any mutilation could be. I 
know now that there’s only one 
legitimate way a human being can 
create life. When he tries another 
way. as I did, he has a lesson to 
learn. Remember the lesson of the 
student Frankenstein ? He learned, 
too. In a way, he was lucky — the 
way he learned. He didn’t have 
to watch what happened afterward. 
Maybe he wouldn’t have had the 
courage- — I know I haven’t.” 

Harris found himself standing 
without remembering that he rose. 
He knew suddenly what was about 
to happen. Fie understood Malt- 
zer's air of resolution, his new, un- 
natural calm. He knew, even, why 
Maltzer had asked him here today, 
so that Deirdre might not be left 
alone. For he remembered that 
Frankenstein, too, had paid with his 
life for the unlawful creation of 
life. 

Maltzer was leaning head and 
shoulders from the window now, 
looking down with almost hypno- 
tized fascination. His voice came 
back to them remotely in the breeze, 
as if a barrier already lay between 
them. 

Deirdre had not moved. Her ex- 
pressionless mask, in the mirror, 
watched him calmly. She must have 
understood. Yet she gave no sigh, 
except that the weaving of her arms 
had almost stopped now, she moved 
so slowly. Like a dance seen in a 
nightmare, under water. 

It was impossible, of course, for 
her to express any emotion. The 
fact that her fade showed none 
now should not, in fairness, be held 
against her. But she watched so 

i«« 



wholly without feeling — Neither 
of them moved toward the window. 
A. false step, now, might send him 
over. They were quiet, listening to 
his voice. 

“We who bring life into the world 
unlawfully,” said Maltzer. almost 
thoughtfully, “must make room for 
it by withdrawing our own. That 
seems to be an inflexible rule. It 
works automatically. The thing we 
create makes living unbearable. No, 
it’s nothing you can help, my dear. 
I’ve asked you to do something I 
created you incapable of doing. I 
made you to perform a function, 
and I’ve been asking you to forego 
the one thing you were made to do. 
I believe that if you do it, it will 
destroy you, but the whole guilt is 
mine, not yours. I’m not even ask- 
ing you to give up the screen, any 
more. I know you can’t, and live. 
But I can’t live and watch you. I 
put all my skill and all my love in 
one final masterpiece, and I can’t 
bear to watch it destroyed. I can’t 
live and watch you do only what 
I made you to do, and ruin yourself 
because you must do it. 

“But before I go, I have to make 
sure you understand.” He leaned 
a little farther, looking down, and 
his voice grew more remote as the 
glass came between them. He was 
saying almost unbearable things 
now, but very distantly, in a cool, 
passionless tone filtered through 
wind and glass, and with the dis- 
tant humming of the city mingled 
with it, so that the words were curi- 
ously robbed of poignancy. “I can 
be a coward,” he said, “and escape 
the consequences of what I’ve done, 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



but I can’t go and leave you — not 
understanding. It would be even 
worse than the thought of your fail- 
ure to think of you bewildered and 
confused when the mob turns on 
you. What I’m telling "you, my 
dear, won’t be any real news — I 
think you sense it already, though 
you may not admit it to yourself. 
We’ve been too close to lie to each 
other, Deirdre — I know when you 
aren’t telling the truth. I know the 
distress that’s been growing in your 
mind. You are not wholly human, 
my dear. I think you know that. 
In so many ways, in spite of all I 
could do, you must always be less 
than human. You’ve lost the senses 
of perception that kept you in touch 
with humanity. Sight and hearing 
are all that remain, and sight, as 
I’ve said before, was the last and 
coldest of the senses to develop. 
And you’re so delicately poised on 
a sort of thin edge of reason. You’re 
only a clear, glowing mind animat- 
ing a metal body, like a candle flame 
in a glass. And as precariously vul- 
nerable to the wind.” 

He paused. “Try not to let 
them ruin you completely,” he said 
after a while. “When they turn 
against you, when they find out 
you’re more helpless than they — I 
wish I could have made you 
stronger, Deirdre. But I couldn’t. 
I had too much skill for your good 
and mine, but not quite enough skill 
for that.” 

He was silent again, briefly, look- 
ing down. He was balanced pre- 
cariously now, more than halfway 
over the sill and supported only by 
one hand on the glass. Harris 



watched with an agonized uncer- 
tainty, not sure whether a sudden 
leap might catch him in time ' or 
send him over. Deirdre was still 
weaving her golden patterns, slowly 
and unchangingly, watching the mir- 
ror and its reflection, her face and 
masked eyes enigmatic. 

“I wish one thing, though,” Malt- 
zer said in his remote voice. “I 
wish — before I finish — that you’d 
tell me the truth, Deirdre. I’d be 
happier if I were sure I’d — reached 
you. Do you understand what I’ve 
said? Do you believe me? Be- 
cause if you don’t, then I know 
you’re lost beyond all hope. If 
you’ll admit your own doubt — and 
I know you do doubt — I can think 
there may be a chance for you after 
all. Were you lying to me, Deirdre ? 
Do you know how . . . how wrong 
I’ve made you?” 

There was silence. Then very 
softly, a breath of sound, Deirdre 
answered. The voice seemed to 
hang in midair, because she had no 
lips to move and localize it for the 
imagination. 

“Will you listen, Maltzer?” she 
asked. 

“I’ll wait,” he said. “Go on. Yes 
or no?” 

Slowly she let her arms drop to 
her sides. Very smoothly and 
quietly she turned from the mirror 
and faced him. She swayed a little, 
making her metal robe ring. 

“I’ll answer you," she said. “But 
I don’t think I’ll answer that. Not 
with yes or no, anyhow. I’m going 
to walk a little, Maltzer. I have 
something to tell you, and I can’t 



NO WOMAN BORN 



167 



talk standing still. Will you let me 
move about without — going over?” 
He nodded distantly. “You can’t 
interfere from that distance,” he 
said. “But keep the distance. What 
do you want to say?” 

She began to pace a little way 
up and down her end of the room, 
moving with liquid ease. The table 
with the cigarette box was in her 
way, and she pushed it aside care- 
fully, watching Maltzer and making 
no swift motions to startle him. 

“I’m not — well, sub-human,” she 
said, a faint note of indignation in 
her voice. “I’ll prove it in a min- 
ute, but I want to say something 
else first. You must promise to 
wait and listen. There’s a flaw in 
your argument, and I resent it. I’m 
not a Frankenstein monster made 
out of dead flesh. I’m myself — 
alive. You didn’t create my life, 
you only preserved it. I’m not a 
robot, with compulsions built into 
me that I have to obey. I’m free- 
willed and independent, and, Maltz- 
zer — I’m human.” 

Harris had relaxed a little. She 
knew what she was doing. He had 
no idea what she planned, but he 
was willing to wait now. She was 
not the indifferent automaton he 
had thought. He watched her come 
to the table again in a lap of her 
pacing, and stoop over it, her eye- 
less mask turned to Maltzer to make 
sure a variation of her movement 
did not startle him. 

“I’m human,” she repeated, her 
voice humming faintly and very 
sweetly. “Do you think I’m not?” 
she asked, straightening and facing 
them both. And then suddenly, al- 
ios 



most overwhelmingly, the warmth 
and the old ardent charm was radi- 
ant all around her. She was robot 
no longer, enigmatic no longer. Har- 
ris could see as clearly as in their 
first meeting the remembered flesh 
still gracious and beautiful as her 
voice evoked his memory. She stood 
swaying a little, as she had always 
swayed, her head on one side, and 
she was chuckling at them both. 
It was such a soft and lovely sound, 
so warmly familiar. 

“Of course I’m myself,” she told 
them, and as the words sounded in 
their ears neither of them could 
doubt it. There was hypnosis io 
her voice. She turned away and 
began to pace again, and so power- 
ful was the human personality 
which she had called up about her 
that it beat out at them in deep 
pulses, as if her body were a fur- 
nace to send out those comforting 
waves of warmth. “I have handi- 
caps, I know,” she said. “But my 
audiences will never know. I won’t 
let them know. I think you’ll be- 
lieve me, both of you, when I say 
I could play Juliet just as I am now, 
with a cast of ordinary people, and 
make the world accept it. Do you 
think I could, John? Maltzer, don’t 
you believe I could?” 

She paused at the far end of her 
pacing path and turned to face 
them, and they both stared at her 
without speaking. To Harris she 
was the Deirdre he had always 
known, pale gold, exquisitely grace- 
ful in remembered postures, the in- 
ner radiance of her shining through 
metal as brilliantly as it had ever 
shone through flesh. He did not 

ASTOUNDING SC IENCTC- F IDT IO S 



wonder, now, if it were real. Later 
he would think again that it might 
be only a disguise, something like 
a garment she had put off with her 
lost body, to wear again only when 
she chose. Now the spell of her 
compelling charm was too strong 
for wonder. He watched, convinced 
for the moment that she was all 
she seemed to be. She could play 
Juliet if she said she could. She 
could sway a whole audience as 
easily as she swayed himself. In- 
deed, there was something about her 
just now more convincingly human 
than anything he had noticed before. 
He realized that in a split second 
of awareness before he saw what it 
was. 

She was looking at Maltzer. He, 
too, watched, spellbound in spite of 
himself, not dissenting. She glanced 
from one to the other. Then she 
put back her head and laughter 
came welling and choking from her 
in a great, full-throated tide. She 
shook in the strength of it. Harris 
could almost see her round throat 
pulsing with the sweet low-pitched 
waves of laughter that were shaking 
her. Honest mirth, with a little 
derision in it. 

Then she lifted one arm and 
tossed her cigarette into the empty 
fireplace. 

Harris choked, and his mind went 
blank for one moment of blind de- 
nial. He had not sat here watching 
a robot smoke and accepting it as 
normal. He could not! And yet 
he had. That had been the final 
touch of conviction which swayed 
his hypnotized mind into accepting 




her humanity. And she had done 
it so deftly, so naturally, wearing 
her radiant humanity with such 
rightness, that his watching mind 
had not even questioned what she 
did. 

He glanced at Maltzer. The man 
was still halfway over the window 
ledge, but through the opening of 
the window he, too, was staring in 
stupefied disbelief and Harris knew 
they had shared the same delusion. 

Deirdre was still shaking a little 
with laughter. “Well,” she de- 
manded, the rich chuckling making 
her voice quiver, “am I all robot, 
after all?” 

Harris opened his mouth to speak, 
but he did not utter a word. This 
was not his show. The byplay lay 
wholly between Deirdre and Malt- 
zer; he must not interfere. He 
turned his head to the window and 
waited. 

And Maltzer for a moment 
seemed shaken in his conviction. 

109 



NO WOMAN BORN 



“You . . . you are an actress,” he 
admitted slowly. “But I . . . Fm 
not convinced I’m wrong. I 
think — ” He paused. The queru- 
lous note was in his voice again, and 
he seemed racked once more by the 
old doubts and dismay. Then Har- 
ris saw him stiffen. He saw the 
resolution come back, and under- 
stood why it had come. Maltzer 
had gone too far already upon the 
cold and lonely path he had chosen 
to turn back, even for stronger evi- 
dence than this. He had reached 
his conclusions only after mental 
turmoil too terrible to face again. 
Safety and peace lay in the course 
lie had steeled himself to follow. 
He was too tired, too exhausted by 
months of conflict, to retrace his 
path and begin all over. Harris 
could see him groping for a way 
out, and in a moment he saw him 
find it. 

“That was a trick,” he said hol- 
lowly. “Maybe you could play it 
on a larger audience, too. Maybe 
you have more tricks to use. I 
might be wrong. But Deirdre” — 
his voice grew urgent — “you haven’t 
answered the one thing I’ve got to 
know. You can’t answer it. You 
do feel— dismay. You’ve learned 
your own inadequacy, however well 
you can hide it from us — even from 
us. I know. Can you deny that, 
Deirdre ?” 

She was not laughing now. She 
let her arms fall, and the flexible 
golden body seemed to droop a 
little all over, as if the brain that 
a moment before had been sending 
out strong, sure waves of confidence 
had slackened its power, and the 

170 



intangible muscles of her limbs 
slackened with it. Some of the 
glowing humanity began to fade. 
It receded within her and was gone, 
as if the fire in the furnace of her 
body were sinking and cooling. 

“Maltzer,” she said uncertainly, 
“I can’t answer that — yet. I 
can’t — ” 

And then, while they waited in 
anxiety for her to finish the sen- 
tence, she biased. She ceased to be 
a figure in stasis — she biased. 

It was something no eyes could 
watch and translate into terms the 
brain could follow ; her motion was 
too swift. Maltzer in the window 
was a whole long room-length away. 
He had thought himself safe at such 
a distance, knowing no normal hu- 
man being could reach him before 
he moved. But Deirdre was neither 
normal nor human. 

In the same instant she stood 
drooping by the mirror she was 
simultaneously at Maltzer’s side. 
Her motion negated time and de- 
stroyed space. And as a glowing 
cigarette tip in the dark describes 
closed circles before the eye when 
the holder moves it swiftly, so 
Deirdre blazed in one continuous 
flash of golden motion across the 
room. 

But curiously, she was not 
blurred. Harris, watching, felt his 
mind go blank again, but less in 
surprise than because no normal 
eyes and brain could perceive what 
it was he looked at. 

(In that moment of intolerable 
suspense his complex human brain 
paused suddenly, annihilating time 
in its own way, and withdrew to a 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 




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Perhaps we’ll have bad times. Then they’re sure 
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The best thing you can do for your country 
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without. That helps keep prices down, heads off 



inflation, helps to insure good times after the war. 

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3. Keep your own prices down. Don’t 
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4. Save. Buy and hold all the War Bonds 
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A United States war mernsge prepared by the War Advertising Connell; approved by the Office of War 
Information; and contributed by this magazine in cooperation with the. Magazine Fob! inhere of America. 



\ 




cool corner of its own to analyze 
in a flashing second what it was he 
had just seen. The brain could do 
it tunelessly; words are slow. But 
he knew he had watched a sort of 
tesseract of human motion, a para- 
ble of fourth-dimensional activity. 
A one-dimensional point, moved 
through space, creates a two-dimen- 
sional line, which in motion creates 
a three-dimensional cube. Theoreti- 
cally the cube, in motion, would 
produce a fourth-dimensional fig- 
ure. No human creature had ever 
seen a figure of three dimensions 
moved through space and time be- 
fore — until this moment. She had 
not blurred ; every motion she made 
was distinct, but not like moving 
figures on a strip of film. Not like 
anything that those who use our 
language had ever seen before, or 
created words to express. The 
mind saw, but without perceiving. 
Neither words nor thoughts could 
resolve what happened into terms 
for human brains. And perhaps she 
had not actually and literally moved 
through the fourth dimension. Per- 
haps — since Harris was able to see 
her — it had been almost and not 
quite that unimaginable thing. But 
it was close enough. 

While to the slow mind’s eye 
she was still standing at the far 
end of the room, she was already 
at Maltzer’s side, her long, flexible 
fingers gentle but very firm upon 
his arms. She waited — 

The room shimmered. There 
was sudden violent heat beating 
upon Harris’ face. Then the air 
steadied again and Deirdre was say- 
ing softly, in a mournful whisper, 

172 



“I'm sorry — I had to do it. I’m 
sorry — I didn’t mean you to 
know — ” 

Time caught up with Harris. He 
saw it overtake Maltzer too, saw 
the man jerk convulsively away 
from the grasping hands, in a ludi- 
crously futile effort to forestall 
what had already happened. Even 
thought was slow, compared with 
Deirdre’s swiftness. 

The sharp outward jerk was 
strong. It was strong enough to 
break the grasp of human hands 
and catapult Maltzer out and down 
into the swimming gulfs of New 
York. The mind leaped ahead to a 
logical conclusion and saw him 
twisting and turning and diminish- 
ing with dreadful rapidity to a tiny 
point of darkness that dropped 
away through sunlight toward the 
shadows near the earth. The mind 
even conjured up a shrill, thin cry 
that plummeted away with the fall- 
ing body and hung behind it in the 
shaken air. 

But the mind was reckoning on 
human factors. 

Very gently and smoothly Deir- 
dre lifted Maltzer from the window 
sill and with effortless ease carried 
him well back into the safety of the 
room. She set him down before a 
sofa and her golden fingers un- 
wrapped themselves from his arms' 
slowly, so that he could regain con- 
trol of his own body before she 
released him. 

He sank to the sofa without a 
word. Nobody spoke for an un- 
measurable length of time. Harris 
could not. Deirdre waited pa- 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



tiently. It was Maltzer who re- 
gained speech first, and it came back 
on the old track, as if his mind 
had not yet relinquished the rut it 
had worn so deep. 

“All right,” he said breathlessly. 
“All right, you can stop me this 
time. But I know, you see. I 
know ! You can’t hide your feel- 
ing from me, Deirdre. I know the 
trouble you feel. And next time — 
next time I won’t wait to talk!” 

Deirdre made the sound of a 
sigh. She had no lungs to expel the 
breath she was imitating, but it was 
hard to realize that. It was hard 
to understand why she was not 
panting heavily from the terrible ex- 
ertion of the past minutes ; the mind 
knew why, but could not accept the 
reason. She was still too human. 

“You still don’t see,” she said. 



“Think, Maltzer, think !” 

There was a hassock beside the 
sofa. She sank upon it gracefully, 
clasping her robed knees. Her 
head tilted back to watch Maltzer 's 
face. She saw only, stunned stu- 
pidity on it now ; he had passed 
through too much emotional storm 
to think at all. 

“All right,” she told him. “Lis- 
ten — I’ll admit it. You’re right. I 
am unhappy. I do know what you 
said was true — but not for the rea- 
son you think. Humanity and I 
are far apart, and drawing farther. 
The gap will be hard to bridge. Do 
you hear me, Maltzer?” 

Harris saw the tremendous ef- 
fort that went into Maltzer’s wak- 
ening. He saw the man pull his 
mind back into focus and sit up on 
the sofa with weary stiffness. 



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17a 



NO WOMAN BOHN 






“You . . . you do admit it, then?” 
lie asked in a bewildered voice. 
Deirdre shook her head sharply. 
“Do you still think o f me as deli- 
cate?” she demanded. “Do you 
know I carried you here at arm’s 
length halfway across the room? 
Do you realize you weigh nothing 
to me? I could” — she' glanced 
around the room and gestured with 
sudden, rather appalling violence — 
“tear this building down,” she said 
quietly. “I could tear my way 
through these walls, I think. I’ve 
found no 'limit yet to the strength 
I can put forth if I try.” She held 
up her golden hands and looked at 

them. “The metal would break, 
perhaps,” she said reflectively, “but 

then, I have no feeling — ” 

Maltzer gasped, “Deirdre — ” 

She looked up with what must 

have been a smile. It sounded 
clearly in her voice. “Oh, I won’t. 
I wouldn’t have to do it with my 
hands, if I wanted. Look — listen !” 
She put her head back and a 
deep, vibrating hum gathered and 
grew in what one still thought of as 
her throat. It deepened swiftly and 
the ears began to ring. It went 
deeper, and the furniture vibrated. 
The walls began almost impercep- 
tibly to shake. The room was full 
and bursting with a sound that 
shook every atom upon its neigh- 
bor with a terrible, disrupting force. 

The sound ceased. The humming 
died. Then Deirdre laughed and 
made another and quite differently 
pitched sound. It seemed to reach 
out like an arm in one straight di- 
rection — toward the window. The 
opened panel shook. Deirdre in- 

174 



tensified her hum, and slowly, with 
imperceptible jolts that merged into 
smoothness, the window jarred it- 
self shut. 

“You see?” Deirdre said. “You 
see?” 

But still Maltzer could only 
stare. Harris was staring too, his 
mind beginning slowly to accept 
what she implied. Both were too 
stunned to leap ahead to any con- 
clusions yet. 

Deirdre rose impatiently and be- 
gan to pace again, in a ringing of 
metal robe and a twinkling of re- 
flected lights. She was panther- 
like in her suppleness. They could 
see the power behind that lithe mo- 
tion now; they no longer thought 
of her as helpless, but they were 
far still from grasping the truth. 

“You were wrong about me, 
Maltzer,” she said with an effort 
at patience in her voice. “But you 
were right too, in a way you didn’t 
guess. I’m not afraid of humanity. 
I haven’t anything to fear from 
them. Why” — her voice took on a 
tinge of contempt — “already I’ve 
set a fashion in women’s clothing. 
By next week you won’t see a 
woman on the street without a mask 
like mine, and every dress that isn’t 
cut like a chlamys will be out of 
style. I’m not afraid of humanity! 
I won’t lose touch with them unless 
I want to. I’ve learned a lot — 
I’ve learned too much already.” 

Her voice faded for a moment, 
and Harris had a quick and appall- 
ing vision of her experimenting in 
the solitude of her farm, testing the 
range of her voice, testing her eye- 

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 



sight — could she see microscopically 
and telescopically ? — and was her 
hearing as abnormally flexible as 
her voice ? 

“You were afraid I had lost 
feeling and scent and taste,” she 
went on, still pacing with that pow- 
erful, tigerish tread. “Hearing and 
sight* would not be enough, you 
think ? But why do you think 
sight is the last of the senses? It 
may be the latest, Maltzer — Harris 
— but why \lo you think it’s the 
last?” 

She may not have whispered 
that. Perhaps it was only their 
hearing that made it seem thin and 
distant, as the brain contracted and 
would not let the thought come 
through in its stunning entirety. 

“No,” Deirdre said, "I haven’t 
lost contact with the human race. 
I never will, unless I want to. It’s 
too easy . . . too easy.” 

She was watching her shining 
feet as she paced, and her masked 
face was averted. Sorrow sounded 
in her soft voice now. 

“I didn't mean to let you know,” 
she said. “I never would have, if 
this hadn’t happened. But I 
couldn’t let you go believing you’d 
failed. You made a perfect ma- 
chine, Maltzer. More perfect than 
you knew.” 

“But Deirdre — ” breathed Malt- 
zer, his eyes fascinated and still 
incredulous upon her, “but Deir- 
dre, if we did succeed — what’s 
wrong? I can feel it now — I’ve 
felt it all along. You’re so un- 
happy — you still are. Why, Deir- 
dre?” 

She lifted her head and looked 




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NO WOMAN BORN 



178 



at him, eyelcssly, but with a pierc- 
ing stare. 

i “Why are you so sure of that?” 
she asked gently. 

“You think I could be mistaken, 
knowing you as I do ? But I’m not 
Frankenstein . . . you say my crea- 
tion’s flawless. Then what — ” 
“Could you ever duplicate this 
body?” she asked. 

Maltzer glanced down at his 
shaking hands. “I don’t know. I 
doubt it. I — ” 

“Could anyone else?” 

He was silent. Deirdre answered 
for him. “I don’t believe anyone 
could. I think I was an accident. 
A sort of mutation halfway between 
flesh and metal. Something acci- 
dental and . . . and unnatural, turn- 
ing off on a wrong course of evo- 
lution that never reaches a dead 
end. Another brain in a body like 
this might die or go mad, as you 
thought 1 would. The synapses 
are too delicate. You were — call it 
lucky — with me. From what I 
know now, I don’t think a . . , a 
baroque like me could happen 
again.” She paused a moment. 
“What you did was kindle the fire 
for the Phoenix, in a way. And 
the Phoenix rises perfect and re- 
newed from its own ashes. Do you 
remember why it had to reproduce 
itself that way?” 

Maltzer shook his head. 

“I'll tell you,” she said. “It was 
because there was only one Phoe- 
nix. Only one in the whole world.” 
They looked at each other in si- 
lence. Then Deirdre shrugged a 
little. 

“He always came out of the fire 



perfect, of course. I’m not weak, 
Maltzer. You needn’t let that 
thought bother you any more. I’m 
not vulnerable and helpless. I’m 
not sub-human.” She laughed 
dryly. “I suppose,” she said, “that 
I ’m — superhuman . ' ’ 

“But — not happy.” 

“I’m afraid. It isn't unhappi- 
ness, Maltzer — it’s fear. I don’t 
want to draw so far away from the 
human race. I wish I needn’t. 
That’s why I'm going back on the 
stage — to keep in touch with them 
while I can. But I wish there could 
be others like me. I’m . . . I'm 
lonely, Maltzer.” 

Silence again. Then Maltzer 
said, in a voice as distant as when 
he had spoken to them through 
glass, over gulfs as deep as ob- 
livion, 

“Then I am Frankenstein, after 
all.” 

“Perhaps you are,” Deirdre said 
very softly. “I- don’t know. Per- 
haps you are.” 

She turned away and moved 
smoothly, powerfully, down the 
room to the window. Now that 
Harris knew, he could almost hear 
the sheer power purring along her 
limbs as she walked. She leaned 
the golden forehead against the 
glass — it clinked faintly, with a 
musical sound — and looked down 
into the depths Maltzer had hung 
above. Her voice was reflective as 
she looked into those dizzy spaces 
which had offered oblivion to her 
creator. 

“There's one limit I can think 
of,” she said, almost inaudibly. 
“Only one. My brain will wear 



178 



ASTOUNDING SOIKNCE - FICTION 



out in another forty years or so. 
Between now and then I’ll learn • . • 
I’ll change . . . I’ll know (nore than 
I can guess today. I’ll change — 
That’s frightening. I don’t like to 
think about that.” She laid a curved 
golden hand on the latch and pushed 
the window open a little, very eas- 
ily. Wind whined around its 
edge. “I could put a stop to it 
now, if I wanted,” she said. “If I 
wanted. But I can't, really. 
There’s so much still untried. My 
brain’s human, and no human brain 
could leave ’ such possibilities un- 
tested. I wonder, though ... I do 
wonder — ” 



Her voice was soft and familiar 
in Harris’ ears, the voice Deirdre 
had spoken and sung with, sweetly 
enough to enchant a world. But 
as preoccupation came over her 
a certain flatness crept into the 
sound. When she was not listen- 
ing to her own voice, it did not 
keep quite to the pitch of trueness. 
It sounded as if she spoke in a 
room of brass, and echoes from the 
walls resounded in the tones that 
spoke there. 

“I wonder,” she repeated, the 
distant taint of metal already in 
her voice. 



THE END. 



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NO WOMAN BOEN 



177 



SPACESHIP’S VIEW! 

( Continued from page 103) 
a very marked parallax, so that, 
standing behind the homemade 
moon, one-half, or one-quarter of 
the lens will be visible, but not all. 
That plays ruinous tricks with de- 
tail on or near the edge of the 
moon. At the southern edge of the 
picture on page 103 — the top edge — 
there is a marked distortion of the 
lunar features due to that effect. 

We’re disappointed — but we do 
fee! these shots are extremely in- 
teresting. And — they may inspire 
someone, more favorably located, to 
go and do better. In various parts 
of the United States there are large, 
white-painted spherical gas-holders, 
used for storing natural gas under 
considerable pressure. There may 
be other large, white spheres or 
hemispheres. The lunar slides 
needed for the projector can be ob- 
tained from Mount Wilson Ob- 
servatory • or other major astro- 
nomical observatories. A glib 
tongue, a convincing air, and — pos- 
sibly — this article may help to get 
permission to do the job some dark 
and moonless night. It will take 
some long exposures, some real in- 
genuity in solving problems of pro- 
jector power-supply, and a large 
camera, if the thing is to be done 
right. A sphere would be far 
handier to use as the projection 
screen; it may be darned near as 
difficult as building a spaceship in 
the first place to hang a camera 
somewhere to the northwest of a 
one-hundred-foot hemisphere. But 
it would be simple to put the slide 

THE 



in at a peculiar angle to re-orient 
the “moon” with respect to your 
grounded tripod. 

There is one other form of dis- 
tortion that is inherent in this pro- 
cess, and nothing can be done about 
it for the next fifteen years or so. 
That is the — call it “opacity 
shadow.” Our camera spaceship is 
in a position to see the other side 
of the Moon — but there is, obvi- 
ously, nothing in the projected im- 
age there. The original taking 
camera was not in a position to see. 
The same phenomena, on a smaller 
scale, applies to crater walls, and 
similar objects. 

Overcoming that opacity-shadow 
effect, plus the deleterious effect of 
the Earth’s atmosphere in making 
the original telescopic shots, are 
things that no amount of photo- 
graphic ingenuity here on Earth can 
overcome. They can be repaired 
only by waiting the necessary fif- 
teen years or so till the first ships 
capable of circling the Moon are 
built. Then we’ll see the unseeable 
craters. 

In the meantime, we’ll have to try 
photographic spaceships. 

Any photographs so obtained will 
be of great interest. Dr. R. S. 
Richardson originally suggested this 
project to me, and helped me with 
it. Any help I can render, based 
on what I know won’t work, will be 
gladly offered. 

Anyone interested in 8 x 10 
glossy prints of these experimental 
shots published here may obtain 
them for 50c each,” by writing this 
magazine. 

END. 



ITS 



ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION 





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